When Dallas selected Bradlee Anae in the fifth round of the 2020 NFL Draft, they hoped they were getting the same kind of impact player they saw at Utah, the one who became the program’s all-time leader in career sacks. Anae’s rookie season would be uneventful, however, as he registered just six snaps on defense. With such humble beginnings to his professional career, Cowboy fans hoped to see more in year two from Anae. If Friday night against Arizona is any indication, he is fighting to become a meaningful player in the defensive rotation.
Anae got the start in Dallas’ second preseason game and, as RJ Ochoa mentioned in his “Winners, losers, and honorable mentions” piece, had a strong game overall, albeit not a flawless one. A beautiful spin move inside on a 3rd-and-6 play allowed Anae to get to quarterback Colt McCoy early in the second quarter. The move itself was impressive, but the hit on McCoy’s head that followed resulted in an obvious penalty for roughing the passer.
Despite the penalty, Anae continued to apply pressure. He was one of several Cowboys who got after Arizona’s offensive line on the night. In total, Anae logged four quarterback pressures and displayed a nice repertoire of pass rush moves.
Although Bradlee Anae is by no means the fastest lineman on the defense, illustrated most clearly by his 4.93 40 time at the combine last year, he does have good technique and uses his hands well, allowing him to either slip around the edge or spin inside as he did when he crushed McCoy. This knack for pressuring the quarterback, even as a pro, is certainly nothing new for the second-year pass rusher, as he recorded a QB hit and knockdown in his six measly snaps as a rookie last year.
Assuming Anae continues getting snaps throughout the preseason and can avoid injury, he should be able to provide quality depth to an improved Dallas pass rush in 2021.