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Baron Browning's return could boost Broncos' pass rush

K'Waun Williams undergoes second surgery on foot
Chargers Broncos Football
Posted at 7:00 PM, Oct 20, 2023

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Baron Browning grew up playing under the Friday night lights in Texas. He became a standout at Ohio State, a school he loves talking about each week leading up to their latest big game.

"Are they going beat Penn State?" I asked Browning about Saturday's premier matchup.

"Is that even a question? 1-11," said Browning, noting the Nittany Lions' record in their last 12 games vs. the Buckeyes.

Browning loves football — watching it, talking it and, of course, playing it. The third-year linebacker is set to make his season debut on Sunday after spending the first six weeks on the PUP list following offseason knee surgery.

Browning hurt his knee midway through last season but played through it. This set up as a breakthrough year, but he tore the meniscus in his knee during a workout in May.

"I was fine working out. It wasn’t bothering me, then I felt something, and had it looked at,” Browning said recently.

The torn meniscus required rest, rehab, and countless workouts on the side field to be cleared. Watching him during the open viewing period, Browning looks strong, athletic and fast. After playing inside linebacker as a rookie, notching 58 tackles, the 24-year-old switched to edge last season and finished with five sacks, 12 quarterback hits and eight tackles for a loss in 14 games.

Then came the full stop in May.

“I leaned on my faith,” Browning said. “And it really helped me get through it.”

If Browning returns — tight end Greg Dulcich could clear a roster spot by landing on injured reserve — he will be on a pitch count, coach Sean Payton said. Browning remains hopeful, but also realistic.

“I felt really good today. I am going to see how tomorrow goes. I am taking it one day at a time. I don’t have expectations on playing Sunday,” Browning said. “I am just trusting the process and having conversations with my coaches. Like I said, I missed training camp. It’s hard to get all those reps in in a short amount of time. Last week, we really didn’t practice. It was just a walk-through. So that was a full week of practice I didn’t get.”

The Broncos could use Browning. They traded Randy Gregory and released Frank Clark over the past three weeks. Ronnie Perkins was added for depth, but Browning would help spell Jonathon Cooper and Nik Bonitto until he regains his footing.

“It’s definitely a huge deal. He’s as athletic as any outside backer I have played with. It just gives us waves of rushers if Coop or Bonitto, who have done an outstanding job, get tired,” defensive end Zach Allen said. “You can put the pressure on them on all four downs. You see that philosophy around the league. It’s been a great week with him, and I am definitely excited to try it on Sunday.”

K’Waun Williams undergoes foot surgery

Broncos starting nickelback K’Waun Williams’ season might be over before it started. A source confirmed that he will undergo a second foot surgery — he had one in July — which could knock him out for the year. He did not practice on the side field with injured players this week, hinting that something had changed in his timetable.

Williams has been missed. He was one of the team’s most underrated players a year ago, and the Broncos have struggled to replace him.

Ja’Quan McMillian, however, showed promise the last few weeks, especially in his coverage against the Chiefs.