Measurables: 6-foot-5, 280 pounds.
2014 stats: N/A *injured reserve.
As a Duke Blue Devil, Kenny Anunike became only the second player in school history to lead his team in sacks in three consecutive seasons. He also set himself apart in academics, earning an Academic All-ACC Selection. And yet, the kid with the big brain and immensely powerful upper body didn’t hear his name called in the 2014 NFL Draft.
Following the draft, the Denver Broncos took a flyer on him. In training camp of 2014, Anunike flashed. Many expected that the undrafted rookie might just maybe make the final 53-man roster, or the practice squad at the very least.
Unfortunately, he suffered an arm injury in the preseason finale vs. the Dallas Cowboys and was placed on injured reserve. However, Anunike is back, he’s healthy and he’s been making waves in the Broncos organized team activities.
Anunike originally checked in at 6-foot-5 and 260 pounds. But with the Broncos move towards a 3-4 defensive system, he has been asked to put on weight in order to compete for a spot as a 5-tech defensive end. He has reportedly added at least 20 pounds to his frame and is still making explosive plays.
The former tight end excels at making plays in the backfield. And his football IQ and motor quickly endear him to his coaches. As for his future prospects with the Broncos, much of it hinges on what happens with the legally embattled Antonio Smith.
Although he has yet to be indicted, Smith is under investigation in Texas for child abuse of a “sexual” nature. The Broncos signed him to a one-year, $2M deal in April and have since dismissed him from team activities. He won’t step foot inside the Broncos locker room again, unless this case gets dismissed.
Smith’s absence has greatly helped the cause of Kenny Anunike, who has set himself apart as one of the Broncos rotational defensive ends, along with Vance Walker. As it stands, Derek Wolfe and Malik Jackson are the penciled in starters, but Anunike stands a great chance at making the roster, if Smith’s legal troubles aren’t resolved soon.
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If Smith is cleared of all wrong doing, he will immediately become the favorite to win the other DE job, because of his history with Phillips and D-line coach Bill Kollar. However, at 33 years old, Smith’s best days are behind him, while the 25-year-old Anunike’s are likely ahead of him.
Granted, the Broncos have yet to put on pads. That’s when we’ll truly see what’s what. But starting on July 31st, the pads will go on and the intensity will get cranked up. The cream of the crop will rise up. Kenny Anunike might be a bit of a “tweener”, but that versatility could help him win a spot on the roster.
He could back up the weakside defensive end, or stand up and play outside linebacker in a pinch. He’s explosive and strong—exactly what you want from a pass rusher in an aggressive defense like Phillips’.