ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- Kenny Anunike has been a revelation at this year's training camp, and Monday's practice was typical of his work: he used a stunt to get inside of Ben Garland for a sack, he had multiple pressures, and he won one-on-one duels on the left and right sides.
But he's still a rookie. He carried Mitch Unrein's pads into the locker room after practice. And he still has to learn the lessons that are mandatory all NFL newcomers, starting with a simple one: to act like you've been there before.
After using a spin move to blow past right tackle Chris Clark near the end of the linemen's one-on-one period, Anunike celebrated with a few high steps after he tagged the tackling dummy standing in place of the quarterback. The offensive linemen seethed, none more so than four-year veteran Orlando Franklin.
“First of all, one-on-ones, O-line, D-line, it’s a defensive drill," said Franklin, who was beaten twice by Malik Jackson, but rebounded on the replay of each repetition. "They give them a two-way go and our coach is stressing us to set a certain way, you know to get better at a certain set because we felt like we got bull rushed a lot last year. So it’s definitely a loaded drill.
"So for you to celebrate -- any person to celebrate -- I mean, be humble, you know? At this level, we’re all here for a reason."
And Clark showed why. As is common in the one-on-one period when one player is beaten badly. the coaches lined up Anunike and Clark for a re-match. Clark held his ground, and the offensive linemen celebrated -- led by a whooping, high-stepping Franklin.
Over an hour later, after practice had ended, Franklin was calmer -- perhaps because he knew the sequence had succeeded in giving the rising rookie a crucial lesson.
"We’re all here because we did something right and we’re all at the top of our game, so if you do beat a person, you have to be humble because you never know what’s going to happen the next rep," said Franklin. "My hat goes off to Clark for shutting him down the next play.”
And Anunike responded as he should have. A bit chastened, he went back to work in the team and nine-on-seven periods and delivered yet another strong performance, which is where today's Five Thoughts begins.
1. In recent days, Anunike has drawn more attention from the offense, with the opposing tackles getting assistance from a chipping tight end or running back on a regular basis. Anunike is persistent; he does a good job working through the contact and not yielding ground at the point of attack, and occasionally is able to anticipate it and break away, without being caught out of position.
Anunike also has the patience to wait on a stunt to develop, and then possesses the acceleration to get to the quarterback. His sack of Brock Osweiler on Monday in the red zone saw him wait and then accelerate inside of guard Ben Garland to get to the quarterback. With more attention from blocking schemes, Anunike has to find varied ways to make an impact beyond simple edge rushes.
2. Malik Jackson earned the top grade of any Bronco from ProFootballFocus.com for the win over Seattle last Thursday, and in his one-on-one and nine-on-seven work, he built on it. Jackson began the one-on-one period by beating Franklin off the snap with a rip move, and he later blew past him again, although Franklin evened the score on rematches each time.
Jackson's work highlighted a day that was a tour de force for the front four, particularly its pass rushers. DeMarcus Ware and Von Miller each had three penetrations that could have resulted in sacks at game speed and contact. Anunike, Quanterus Smith and Shaquil Barrett all got into the backfield for plays that could have been sacks in game conditions.
3. Few could have imagined that Juwan Thompson would be swimming in the deep waters of the ones-vs.-ones two and a half weeks into training camp, but the rookie running back did not look out of place when he saw some repetitions in the same backfield with Peyton Manning after Ronnie Hillman took his turn.
Thompson was decisive in hitting the holes available to him, just as he was on Saturday with the No. 2 offense after C.J. Anderson suffered a concussion. Work with Manning was not too much for the 5-foot-11, 225-pound rookie -- which came as no surprise to Head Coach John Fox.
"We had some insiders there that helped us and as far as his awareness and they had a no-huddle offense," Fox said of Duke, Thompson's alma mater. "He is very smart football-wise, and he is a big body, he can do the protection things as well as he is a physical runner inside. All those things that we were told about him look to be true thus far."
4. One of the last players off the field was cornerback Bradley Roby. He stayed on the field after the session to work on hand moves Hall of Famer Rod Woodson, who is with the Broncos this summer as part of the Bill Walsh NFL Minority Coaching Fellowship.
Roby's performance has improved in the last week and a half, and he had a solid day, but it ended on a sour note, when he was beaten up the left sideline by Demaryius Thomas for a 28-yard gain on a go route. The pass came in a two-minute drill period, and set the offense up to win the period with a field goal on the next snap.
"He obviously has all the athletic skills that you are looking for in this league. It is just honing your game in, especially in pass defense," said Head Coach John Fox.
5. In the preseason opener, Brennan Clay saw just three carries -- two of which came in the four-minute, grind-down-the-clock offense -- and Jerodis Williams never saw the field. They saw more work Thursday, and both flashed power and speed. Clay, in particular, had perhaps his best run in practice, a solid gain through a hole in the left side that was barely a sliver, and looked too narrow for him to run through. But he accelerated to the glimmer of daylight and burst to the second level, earning vocal praise from Running Backs Coach Eric Studesville that could be heard all the way across the field.