How Baron Browning could impact the Denver Broncos at edge rusher

Oct 31, 2021; Denver, Colorado, USA; Washington Football Team quarterback Taylor Heinicke (4) is sacked by Denver Broncos defensive end Shelby Harris (96) and defensive end Dre'Mont Jones (93) as guard Wes Schweitzer (71) and center Chase Roullier (73) and linebacker Baron Browning (56) defend in the second quarter at Empower Field at Mile High. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

The Denver Broncos are hoping to capitalize on using the athleticism of Baron Browning to get after opposing quarterbacks this season. In order to do that, Browning will primarily come off the edge according to Broncos head coach Nathaniel Hackett.

How might Browning’s role as an edge rusher impact general manager George Paton with potential roster moves?

How Baron Browning impacts the Broncos at linebacker

Last season, the Broncos’ defense suffered the loss of starters Josey Jewell and Alexander Johnson at inside linebacker due to injury. However, Denver was able to lessen the blow by inserting Browning into the starting lineup alongside Kenny Young.

Browning appeared in 14 games for the Broncos last season and started 9 games on defense under former head coach Vic Fangio. Throughout the season, Browning went on to showcase his elite athleticism in coverage and against the run.

“He’s done a really fine job,” Hackett said. “He’s somebody that we saw a couple of things on tape last year [and said] that could potentially be something that he can do. His ability to bend and lower his hips and round that tackle is something that stood out on tape. That’s another rusher on the outside, and he’s doing a good job.”

Most of the demands Browning faced as a rookie involved him covering running backs out of the backfield and blitzing when Fangio decided to send pressure. After playing 60% of the defensive snaps, Browning registered 58 tackles while only missing 5 total tackles.

So, while he played relatively well, the Broncos defensive scheme will change going into this season, and for Browning it means undergoing the task of learning a new role.

What Browning’s move to edge rusher means for the Broncos

As the Broncos continued organized team activities on Tuesday in Dove Valley, Hackett provided clarity on what his expectation is for Browning this season. It doesn’t sound like inside backer is where Browning will play.

“Right now, we want him to train at that position on the outside and see where it goes from there,” Hackett said. “He does have experience there, so I imagine if we do get into a pinch, he can easily get back there but we really like what we’re doing with him right now.”

Hackett’s revelation provides several insights into some potential, hypothetical roster moves once the Broncos move deeper into the preseason.

Right now, the Broncos edge depth consists of Browning, Bradley Chubb, Randy Gregory, Jonathon Cooper, Malik Reed, Aaron Patrick, and second-round rookie draft selection Nik Bonitto.

Personnel-wise, Denver may keep five total edge rushers on their active roster going into the regular season. Could the Broncos and George Paton look to trade an edge rusher or two before the season begins?

With Browning, Gregory, Cooper, and Bonitto having more of a long-term outlook with the Broncos, it wouldn’t be surprising if Paton fielded potential calls for Chubb and Reed.

As Chubb enters a pivotal contract year, Paton could look to acquire capital before the season or mid-season if the team doesn’t plan on extending him during the year. As Reed competes for a spot in the edge rotation, Paton could utilize his upside in a potential trade package as well.

While the Broncos prepare for training camp with seven edge rushers on the roster, it’s unlikely the team keeps more than five going into the season. Could Browning’s positional change impact how Paton maneuvers personnel decisions this offseason?

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