The Denver Broncos continue their third week of organized team activities this week in preparation for next week’s mandatory minicamp. One of the early previews of this upcoming season is talking about which three players on the Broncos defense have the most pressure on them in 2023 — whether it’s to maintain a high level of play or to simply increase their level of production.

Baron Browning has legitimate pass rusher potential

Last week we discussed which players players on defense shouldn’t be written off and Denver Broncos edge rusher Randy Gregory is one of them. Opposite of him, Baron Browning is expected to start on the other side of the Broncos’ pass rusher.

The reason Browning has pressure on him from an optics standpoint this season is mainly due to him continuing to dive deeper into his transition at the position after playing inside linebacker during his rookie season. Some people may believe that a player having pressure on them is a bad thing but in this case, I don’t believe so.

Browning has legitimate pass rusher potential in almost every major category; first step, pass rush moves, sack dances, and more importantly a freakish bend that makes it difficult for even some of the NFL’s best offensive tackles to counteract. In Browning’s case, in particular, pressure should create diamonds for him.

For a player who hadn’t played a single snap previously at edge rusher in the NFL, Browning took the mantle and ran with it in 2022 despite not starting until midway through the season. Like quarterbacks, the edge rusher position for the Denver Broncos will always have high expectations from the fanbase considering Von Miller’s history and more recently having to replace Bradley Chubb’s production after he was traded last year.

2023 is a new opportunity for the third-year player who has been a steal for the team since being drafted in the third round in 2021.

One area of his game he can improve on is timing his jump of the snap, because he’s always quick with it, resulting in several offsides penalties. For 2022 being his first year truly playing the position at the NFL level, his numbers were impressive.

Despite playing 60% of the Broncos’ defensive snaps, he finished the year with five sacks, six quarterback knockdowns, 18 pressures, and 24 tackles with eight of them leading to a tackle for loss. He’ll have pressure on him to continue his upward trajectory, but he should be even more comfortable at the position this season.

Josey Jewell provides tremendous value for Denver Broncos defense

How does Josey Jewell face pressure this upcoming season? From a roster construction standpoint, that’s where the pressure will come from.

Make no mistake about it, Jewell was one of the Denver Broncos most valuable players on defense last season and his presence was noticeable. Jewell was the Broncos primary linebacker last season at the ‘Mike’ position, and Alex Singleton’s emergence as the ‘Will’ made them a fun duo to watch last year despite the team’s struggles.

Singleton was given a three-year contract extension this offseason and the Broncos snagged former Arkansas linebacker Drew Sanders in the third round. On top of that, Justin Strnad remains on the team while Jonas Griffith signed his exclusive rights free agent tender and will be back as well.

So how do all of these circumstances impact The Outlaw? He’s entering the final year of his contract with the team and will be an unrestricted free agent next season.

Even if Jewell performs at the high level he did last season, does that impact the Broncos’ optics of him? Most people might say yes, but even after the roster moves Denver made this offseason, Jewell can still play himself into a contract extension.

With Sanders’ arrival, many think that he was drafted to replace the Broncos’ veteran linebacker, but the talented rookie will have to make a very strong case in order to do that. The Broncos rookie could learn quite a bit from being part of the position room, meetings, and practices with Jewell and Singleton.

One area that has impacted Jewell recently during his time in Denver has been injuries. In 2021, he suffered a freak injury on a special teams play that ended his season. Last season, he suffered an injury in training camp that forced him to miss the first two games of the season.

He returned in Week 3 against the San Francisco 49ers and showed why he’s a valuable asset on defense. A few weeks later he suffered a knee sprain that held him out of action for a few weeks before he returned and played the remaining snaps of the season.

At the end of the day, Jewell understands the business side of the NFL, but he’s made a very strong case to remain part of Denver’s defensive nucleus going forward.

Can Matt Henningsen win the starting job at defensive end opposite of Zach Allen?

After the Denver Broncos lost Dre’Mont Jones and DeShawn Williams in NFL Free Agency, they’ll have to figure out who starts at defensive end this upcoming season. Zach Allen is the one name that Broncos Country can pencil in at one of those positions.

However, questions loom large about who will start opposite of Allen this season. Matt Henningsen is a name that Broncos fans need to keep an eye on. After concluding his rookie season in a role player type of role, Henningsen could be primed to start this year if he puts together a strong training camp and preseason campaign while holding off fellow second-year player Eyioma Uwazurike, Elijah Garcia, and veteran Jonathan Harris in competition.

Where Henningsen excels is his strength and ability to anchor down defensively playing the five-technique (outside shoulder of the offensive tackle), 4i (inside shade of the tackle), and even at times as a three-technique which is the outside shoulder of the offensive guard. On tape, he’s done a consistently solid job at squeezing down the line of scrimmage when run plays go opposite of him until he rules out whether or not there is a counter, reverse, or bootleg.

On paper if Henningsen starts this season, the expectations for him will be high considering Denver’s need to be considerably better against the run and generating pressure on opposing quarterbacks from other positions besides outside linebacker. If he earns the starting job, the pressure to perform at a consistent rate will be present for him.