ENGLEWOOD, Colo. --The Broncos already have one of the league's most disruptive pass rushes, ranking sixth in sack rate (one every 10.5 pass plays), fifth in hit rate and third in quarterback hurries, as compiled by ProFootballFocus.com (33 in 63 pass plays).
Kenny Anunike might take it to another level.
"No question. That's what I'm built for: pass rushing and getting after that quarterback," the second-year defensive end said after completing his first practice since undergoing an Aug. 20 knee scope.
"Standing on the sideline, you can't do much of it, so it felt really good to get back out there today with my teammates, to get out there and have a little bit of fun, pass rushing and helping to stop the run. I'm looking forward to it, and I'm just going to keep on taking it day-by-day and get better and better."
The last month wasn't without its benefits. Anunike continued to strengthen himself through rehabilitation work on the field and in the weight room, and took the extra time to study the defense and his fellow defensive linemen's role in it.
"No question. I feel like I can be even better, because this game is so mental, and I'm just sitting back and watching guys that are doing things that I know I can do, also," Anunike said. "You take what they're doing, and then you put your own spin on it, and that's how you become a great player."
And then there's the fact that he hasn't taken any hits for a month. If the 275-pounder plays in Detroit next Sunday night, he would be the freshest lineman on the field.
"No question -- you come in there and you're feeling great," Anunike said. "Some of the other guys may be beat up, and you just take advantage of that.
Anunike made the team on the strength of one preseason game and some stellar practices before being injured. Two years ago, C.J. Anderson stuck on the 53-man roster under similar circumstances, and by the end of the 2014 season, he was in the Pro Bowl.
No one's saying that Anunike is headed in that direction just yet. However, making the 53-man roster in spite of injury and a lack of preseason repetitions reveals how Head Coach Gary Kubiak and his defensive staff regard Anunike's potential.
"We were counting on him big time," Kubiak said. "To have him totally healthy and to have [OLB Lerentee] McCray totally healthy, now you start to have problems of who you're suiting up. That's a nice problem to have."
The Broncos took to the practice fields Monday morning to start preparations for the Detroit Lions.
Anunike said he didn't think he hurt his knee during the preseason opener against Seattle.
"I think it was sometime in practice, a few days afterwards. It just started hurting. I went in there and got an MRI, and they're like, 'Yeah, we need to go ahead and take care of what's going on in there.' We got that taken care of, and I'm fine."
Anunike said the scope was on his right knee, which allowed him to breathe a sigh of relief. He underwent four surgeries on his left knee during his career at Duke, including procedures to repair torn anterior cruciate and medial collateral ligaments. Anunike endured so much medical hardship that he was granted a rare sixth year of eligibility for the 2013 season.
But nearly four years have passed since the most recent surgery on Anunike's left knee. With a smile, Anunike said that the knee "is holding up just fine," Anunike said.
"I felt no pain today. Zero pain," Anunike said. "That's a huge indicator because if you have pain, then obviously something's wrong. I had no pain today. I was going out there and felt fast, I felt strong and I felt powerful. I'm just going to keep taking it day-by-day and let's see how the week progresses."