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Broncos defensive end Antonio Smith speaks highly of teammate Kenny Anunike

Could the second-year player have a role on the defense this year?

Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports

Veteran defensive end Antonio Smith met with the media on Monday and was asked a variety of questions. One question that stood out to me was when he was asked which young defensive end stood out to him thus far. He named  second-year defensive end, Kenny Anunike.

Smith mentions that he and the coaches noticed Anunike's energy right off the bat.

I think that the coaches right off the bat noticed that Kenny was just out there on the practice field—I think when we did the mini camps—he was just out there outrunning everybody and out-hustling everybody. I see a lot of talent in him."

Anunike was showing off that talent last year when he made waves during last season's training camp. He was consistently getting after the quarterback in practices, and was impressing onlookers in 1 one 1 drills. He carried over that success into the preseason games as well. He looked set to make the team before suffering an injury in the preseason finale that put him on the season-ending injured reserve.

Smith was then asked if he stays after practice to help the younger defensive lineman. He replied that he does if they ask him to. It's a role he embraces and that it helps sharpen up his own skills.

Every single time they need me to stay after, I stay after. It excites me to see somebody who wants to get better at their craft. If I can do that with them, it actually helps me keep my skills sharp."

When asked which player is picking his brain the most, he again mentions Anunike.

"Kenny. I would say Kenny is, but all of them ask me different questions at different points in time whether it’s about the defense or if it’s about pass rushing. At different points in time, I think all of them have come to me, but Kenny, he’s in almost every day asking me something. He wonders about this and wonders about that."

It's not yet known how the Broncos plan to use Anunike in Wade Phillip's 3-4 defense, but ESPN's Jeff Legwold believes that he'll get some work at the weak-side defensive end spot initially. He also expects him to line up at outside linebacker in some situations.

Being able to play both defensive end and linebacker will definitely help Anunike make the roster, but he'll face some stiff competition. The Broncos added Shane Ray in the first round of the NFL Draft to back up Von Miller and DeMarcus Ware. They also have Lerentee McCray and Shaq Barrett for a roster spot. At defensive end, you have Malik Jackson and Derek Wolfe starting, and Antonio Smith and Vance Walker backing them up.

Anunike is on the roster bubble, but if he continues to impress and has another strong training camp/preseason, it will make it tough for the Broncos to move on from him.