Player Profile: Baron Browning may have started from behind, but he’s sprinting forward

Nov 28, 2021; Denver, Colorado, USA; Denver Broncos inside linebacker Baron Browning (56) reacts to his tipped pass in the first quarter against the Los Angeles Chargers at Empower Field at Mile High. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

After a four-game losing streak, the Denver Broncos have turned it around, winning three of the last four games.  

On Sunday, the Broncos’ defense stepped up massively to shut down the Los Angeles Chargers and lead the team to a 28-13 victory. Linebacker Baron Browning was particularly impressive, finishing the game with seven tackles and a spectacular PBU.

Unfortunately for Browning, his season started slow due to a lower leg injury he suffered during rookie minicamp. However, with season-ending injuries to Alexander Johnson and Josey Jewell, Browning has moved up the depth chart and has been a massive difference-maker for the Broncos’ defense.

Forging A Path

Browning was born in Fort Worth, TX, and attended Kennedale High School.

Coming out of high school, Browning was a five-star recruit and named the number one outside linebacker by 247Sports. He was also a finalist for the Butkus Award, an award given annually to the top linebackers at the high school, collegiate, and professional levels of football. 

However, collegiate football wasn’t always a guarantee for Browning.

“I thought I was going to go to college for bowling,” Browning said in 2016. “I got really serious about it. I would bowl with my family for fun when my brother would come into town from college. Then me and my Paw Paw started bowling every other week. He even got me a custom ball for Christmas.”

In the summer before his senior year, Browning verbally committed to Baylor. However, by February, he had backed out, feeling that he had rushed the decision and wanted to think through the 40 offers he had received.

His decision came down to two schools: Alabama and Ohio State University. In the end, Browning would go on to choose OSU, but not before pulling a prank on Urban Meyer.

“My decision came down to Alabama and Ohio State, and I think I texted (coach) Urban (Meyer), thank you for everything you’ve done, but I am going to roll with the Tide. And then probably a few minutes later, I tweeted out that I was committed to Ohio State, and he had no idea,” Browning told Denver7

At OSU, Browning thrived in four seasons finishing with 110 tackles (65 solos), seven sacks, three pass breakups, two forced fumbles, and two fumble recoveries.

As Browning never stuck to one position at OSU, going into the 2021 NFL Draft, there was some concern surrounding his development. However, his athleticism and versatility were a major appeal to teams.  

Browning was selected in the third round with the 105th overall pick by the Denver Broncos in the 2021 NFL Draft.

Starting From Behind

After being selected in the draft, Browning was excited to enter preseason and compete for significant playing time.

Those plans were immediately put on hold as Browning suffered a lower leg injury in rookie minicamp. It kept him off the field during the offseason program and landed him on the Physically Unable to Perform list to start training camp.

On Aug. 16, the Broncos announced that Browning had passed his physical and was approved to return to practice. When the final 53-man roster was announced, he was listed behind Johnson and Jewell as a backup.

On Sept. 21, Jewell was placed on the injured reserve with a pectoral injury. Then on Oct. 18, the Broncos announced that Johnson would also be out for the season with a torn pectoral injury of his own.

Despite their injuries, Browning was forced to miss the next game against the Cleveland Browns because of a concussion he had suffered against the Las Vegas Raiders. The Broncos failed miserably, trying to stop the Browns’ run game. 

Browning got his first NFL start the following week against the Washington Football Team. The Broncos won that game 17-10.

With how little playing time Browning had had, there was some uneasiness about whether or not he could take grasp that quickly.  

Now four starts in, Browning has proven his worth and earned the distinction.  

Initially starting at a disadvantage with the injury, Browning has worked his way up to become an essential member of the Broncos’ defense. Following the win against the Chargers, Vic Fangio commented on his work ethic, saying, “He’s been putting in extra work. He comes up and meets with me some for extra.”

It’s safe to say that extra work is paying off. 

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