Broncos OLB Baron Browning Reminds Sean Payton of Late Saints Pro Bowler

Sean Payton offered some high praise to Baron Browning.
Oct 29, 2023; Denver, Colorado, USA; Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes (15) falls to the ground after colliding with offensive tackle Donovan Smith (79) as Denver Broncos linebacker Baron Browning (56) defends in the fourth quarter at Empower Field at Mile High. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 29, 2023; Denver, Colorado, USA; Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes (15) falls to the ground after colliding with offensive tackle Donovan Smith (79) as Denver Broncos linebacker Baron Browning (56) defends in the fourth quarter at Empower Field at Mile High. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports / Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

Sometimes Denver Broncos outside linebacker Baron Browning looks just like Super Bowl 50 MVP Von Miller when rushing the passer. The 25-year-old Browning has a quantum leap still yet to make before such lofty comparisons to a shoo-in future Hall-of-Famer become more commonplace

In the meantime, according to Broncos head coach Sean Payton, Browning is making notable strides toward becoming the total package. Browning's tangible improvements have led Payton to get a lot closer to his edge rusher on a more personal level, and it's led to him comparing his personality to one of his former players from his days with the New Orleans Saints.

"He and I have five conversations a day, and I don't know if we had five the first half of last season because you're trying to get to know everyone," Payton said on Wednesday. "But he's much further along. There is a confidence about him. He reminds me a little of an Ohio State player [the Saints] had, [DE] Will Smith. And I'm not saying that necessarily [because] they played the same position. His personality reminds me a lot of Will, the late Will Smith."

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Browning has shown a willingness to respond to coaching. Originally drafted as an inside linebacker in 2021, the Broncos coaches quickly recognized that his bend and burst of speed were best suited to the edge.

Consequently, much of Project Browning remains under construction, which is why Payton could be intent on building a stronger relationship this offseason. Investing more time and effort in polishing Browning into a fine jewel has been an organic pursuit, but Payton is having a good time coaching the young edge rusher.

"He's in good shape," Payton said. "He's been working hard, and I've gotten to know him and I enjoy coaching him."

While Browning's natural talent is self-evident, the biggest question mark remains his ability to stay healthy through a full 17-game slate. He missed much of the first half of the 2023 season, and previous injuries have curtailed his upward trajectory. 

While Browning has always been a well-conditioned athlete, the impressive shape he was in when he reported for OTAs could make a big difference in 2024. Ever since Payton turned the page on the underwhelming veteran duo Randy Gregory and Frank Clark early last season, the team's pivot toward a more youthful pass rush boded well for Browning.

This offseason, Payton has brought in some free-agent defensive linemen to improve the depth up front, and that should help Browning make more of an impact off the edge. As he approaches the key second contract stage of his burgeoning career, flipping the switch and turning the corner as a consistent force is within reach for Browning.

He's just got to stay healthy.

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Keith Cummings

KEITH CUMMINGS

Keith Cummings has covered the Denver Broncos at Mile High Huddle since 2019. His works have been featured on CBSSports.com, BleacherReport.com, Yahoo.com, and MSN.com. 

Keith Cummings

KEITH CUMMINGS

Keith Cummings has covered the Denver Broncos at Mile High Huddle since 2019. His works have been featured on CBSSports.com, BleacherReport.com, Yahoo.com, and MSN.com.