The "Blue Goose" is feeling blue today. The Patriots released Kony Ealy after trading for him just prior to the 2017 NFL Draft. Ealy, who is entering his fourth season, fizzled out quickly in Carolina after one of the best Super Bowl performances in history.Read More
By now, every free agent acquisition the Panthers have made this year has been already posted about whether on here, facebook, twitter, or dozens of other sites. I'm here to look at the bigger picture going forward and what all these signings mean for the draft.Read More
A year removed from one of the greatest defensive Super Bowl performances ever, Kony Ealy has been traded to the New England Patriots for a second-round draft pick. The Panthers moved Ealy and a third-round selection (#72 Overall) to advance into the second round (#64 Overall). Carolina now has a first-round, two second-round, and a third-round selection. in the 2017 draft.Read More
I realize this is a smidgen early. No, it's way way early. Panthers GM Dave Gettleman is known for playing chess and in doing so, he is thinking years down the road. I want to look position by position, tying things up at the end for 2016. Here goes for each position group's year-long outlook:Read More
Morgan Moses was a prospect who many draft analysts believed the Panthers should have grabbed in the 2014 draft. The Panthers were in need of a tackle, and Moses was a higher-end, second-tier tackle who was available. Todd McShay projected Moses to go 17 to the Dolphins, but he was there when the Panthers picked Kelvin Benjamin in the 1st Round, and still there at #60 when Carolin picked Kony Ealy in the 2nd Round.Read More
The Carolina Panthers are 2-0. That is great news for Panthers fans. Honestly we have not payed our best game yet and still managed to win. That is the sign of a good team. In the wins we have had some players that were good, some that were bad and some just plain ugly.Read More
Every year we as fans look focus on the win loss record. We look for our break out stars and top-level performances at both the individual and the squad level. Theses are my 10 very reachable, but still, bold predictions for the Panthers this season! I will follow this up every 4 games to adjust my “bold tracker” on the season.Read More
We've all wondered how much the players pay attention to the noise. Social media's integration into our daily lives has given us a little insight on the matter, as well as, simply amplifying the noise. Some guys embrace social media interaction with all it's noise and sometime work to suppress it. Rarely does this happen over the long-term without making an error or ultimately drowning in the noise that acknowledging it only amplifies. Many choice to avoid the headache, despite the irrationality of the noise.Read More
National pundits and analysts all have a common concern about the Carolina Panthers--the offensive line. The obvious question remains, can Michael Oher be serviceable at left tackle? While this question clearly looms, there is another major concern that flies somewhat under the radar--the defensive line.Read More
The Panther’s second round pick last year struggled at times last year, no one is disputing that. However, it seems that most writers are using adjectives such as: “disastrous, nightmare, disappointing, and even bust” to describe his rookie season. This has all come somewhat surprising to me, especially considering how strong he finished the season (3 sacks in the last 3 games). I’m a Panthers optimist, and can only take a few negative comments before I reach a breaking point. I reached that breaking point after reading an article by Bryan Knowles (Panther’s featured columnist on Bleacher Report); his article covered the Panthers remaining offseason priorities. In the “Who Provides the Pass Rush?” section, he mulled over who would step up in Hardy’s place. He mentioned Ealy only when saying he and Wes Horton didn't notably step up the pass rush, and to finally say Kony had something of a nightmare season.Read More
Kony Ealy turned it on late in the season after a slow start to his rookie season. With Greg Hardy out for his shenanigans, Ealy assumed a larger role in the defense than initially planned. It was an adjustment, epitomized in the criticism he received from Ron Rivera during training camp and Cam Newton's tough love as the offense faced down Ealy and the defense in the redzone in a team scrimmage.
Nothing gets me more excited then the NFL Draft and everything leading up to it. Whether it be the prospect of big time playmakers on the board or exciting backyard players ready to make an impact on their hometown teams, the draft is a great event. In the months leading up to the draft, expectations and predictions run wild for most people. It seems that every pick, even seventh rounders, can be pro bowl players as long as they are drafted by your favorite team. Can that sixth round receiver who never topped a 1000 yards in college really be expected to perennially post outstanding numbers at the next level?Read More
A season like this is probably most important from an evaluating talent standpoint. If it wasn’t for the historically bad condition of the NFC South, that’s all the season would be good for at this point. Carolina is carefully looking at who they have, who we need to keep, and where they should be playing! Let me start by saying you will see some people missing from this list… I don't think I need to tell you what we have in Cam, KB, Star, Shorts or LUKE!! Carolina will be evaluating the young guys who are fighting hard to carve out space on what will likely be a very fluid Panthers roster.Read More
Ealy, however, has struggled in his first training camp, leaving some questioning his ability to make an immediate impact.
The disconcerting news began when Charlotte Observer’s Jonathan Jones reported last week, “Rookie defensive end Kony Ealy struggled Tuesday. He was blocked consistently in one-on-one drills, including getting dominated by Byron Bell and later blocked to the ground by undrafted rookie Andrew Norwell.”
Saturday was particularly difficult for Ealy, physically and mentally, who found himself on his back taking a ribbing from his teammates and coaches. After being beat up by David Foucault, a Canadian walk-on resembling Thor, Ealy got a ribbing from Cam Newton. It hasn't been reported what Cam actually said, but ESPN's David Newton described Ealy as "agitated" from the chiding. Ealy later commented that the exchange got his “blood pumping” and that moments like this “motivate him to play harder.”
Should Early's early struggles worry Panther fans?
Many believed that his size and athleticism would translate seemlessly to the pros. Ealy's difficulties in his first camp have some worrying already, however. This shouldn't be all too surprising. Defensive end is a difficult position for guys coming out of college to adjust to in the pros. Mike Rucker, commented on the Mac Attack this week that "college moves" just don't work as well in the NFL. Guys have to refine their craft against more crafty and talented offensive lineman.
Even Greg Hardy, who some believe to be the most talented pure pass rusher in the league, struggled in his rookie year. PFF’s Ben Stockwell noted:
“After playing 30 snaps in each of the first two games of the season he wouldn’t play more than 30 in a game again until Week 15 and after his fast start Hardy’s performance dipped both as a pass rusher and run defender. From Week 3 to Week 10 Hardy recorded only three hits and only graded positively in run defense twice.”
It wasn’t that Hardy couldn’t be effective or didn’t have the necessary ability, he just wasn’t ready technically to assume a consistent role in the Panthers defense. Ealy will likely face similar challenges. He’s full of raw talent and potential, but he will have to refine his craft to make the impact that fans want.
Observations on Ealy’s technique and reasons for his struggles:
- Power rusher who relies on speed more than strength. Can get around and inside offensive tackles with very straight lines and underneath moves.
- Technique and nuances of game need development. Overly reliant on speed rush and hasn’t perfected hand fighting just yet.
- Gets swallowed up by blockers at times because of reliance on speed. Isn't country strong yet. The pro weight training regimen should help Ealy maximize strength potential for a guy of his size.
Don’t be disheartened.
Ealy shows the mental strength to meet this challenge. People who are so accustomed to success often have trouble with adversity and failure. It’s something that they just don’t know and understand first hand. Look at Cam’s struggles during his sophomore NFL season. We referred to him as mopey Cam because he just had a hard time internalizing losing. The game, for the first time in his life, weren’t easy. A guy with Ealy’s size and athleticism likely hasn’t ever struggled at the game. He’s facing the greatest football challenge and it isn’t easy. He facing this adversity courageously, humbly, and maturely, however. Take a look at Ealy’s Instagram post of him and Rivera. Rivera isn’t just giving him a pat on the back, but coaching this guy in the midst of this criticism. Ealy seems to be embracing this moment, this learning opportunity.
Another encouraging aspect is Ealy’s continued excitement in the face of this adversity. He wants to get out on the field and show he can live up to the hype and defy this criticism. I will be looking carefully at Ealy’s intensity early in the preseason to see just how motivated Ealy is by this challenge.
The @panthers fans are the best in the league, first game in 5 days. #KeepPounding http://t.co/x2Sl5uetz4
— kony montoy ealy (@EalyKony) August 4, 2014
This year’s draft didn’t offer the strongest pass-rushing class. Jadeveon Clowney and Dee Ford were the only 1st RD defensive ends selected this year. Ealy was the 5th defensive end selected, so while he was graded high, he wasn’t the most elite pick of the 2014 draft. This suggests that the potential is there, but he isn’t ready to step in as an immediate starter. A great scenario would be for Ealy to rotate in with Addison behind Kraken and Big Money to produces a relentless pass-rushing quarterback. In this capacity, Ealy can capitalized on tired offensive lines and refine his pass rushing moves. Panther Nation, don’t be troubled just yet by Ealy’s camp struggles Watch for improvement throughout the season, particularly in Ealy’s pass-rushing technique and increased strength. Let’s hope he has time to learn behind Johnson and Hardy, rather than being required to step into a larger role to soon because of injury or looming suspensions.
By: the Professor
"Mel Mayock's" last post got me to thinking about how teams are built, what they do, and why they do it. I'm taking a bit of a bigger-picture look at things here.
There's a reason pass-rushers are in high demand every draft. I think the New York Giants have twice showed us as well as last year's Seattle Seahawks teams that the pass rush is the best thing your defense can do well to help you win games.
Of course, Carolina showed us the same thing. We led the NFL in sacks, had a very anemic offense, and won the division at 12-4. When Kony Ealy fell to us in the second round, David Gettleman snapped him up declaring "You can never have too many pass rushers." He's on board with the concept as well.
It turns out Ealy was a great pick for more than just the fact he was rated around 15th overall in the entire draft, but fell because of a slow 40-yard time. As "Mel" pointed out, 10 and 20-yard splits are more important dealing with linemen because 1) it shows quickness
from start to top-gear and 2) if you're chasing a QB 40 yards, he's already scrambled and extended the play to begin with.
What you need in a pass-rushing end is a quick, explosive first step off the snap, hand techniques, moves and counter-moves to defeat the tackle, and short-area speed.
Yeah, it's nice that Jadeveon Clowney is as fast as Cam Newton is, and at 15-20 pounds heavier. He can chase running plays down from the back side and do a few other things to make plays that most guys can't, but we all know he's the exception and not the rule.
That's where Ealy comes in, and already is more valuable to us than even just on draft day. While David Gettleman probably knew about reserve DE Frank Alexander's positive drug test (and likely suspension for four games), the episode with Greg Hardy and his insane girlfriend had yet to occur. Just in case he's suspended for "personal conduct" or what-not, it's GREAT to have that third, starting-quality DE on your roster.
The Kraken or "Big Money" Johnson could get injured. CJ missed a couple of contests last year if you'll recall. Reserve DE Mario Addison will be a free agent after this season and so will the Kraken, as he's franchised.
Clearly, Ealy was not only a bit of a luxury pick but also a bit of a "need" pick, especially considering our division. Any bumps in the road to the current starters only raises Ealy's value to the team, and you know Gettleman's idea is to use Ealy as leverage in contract talks with Hardy. That much is a given.
Even if both ends produce and stay healthy, it's nice to have a guy like an Ealy come into the rotation and provide a fresh set of legs to chase after Drew Brees when the defense has been on the field a while and begins to get gassed. It's also a good idea to mix him in during the game to keep your starters' legs fresh in the 4th quarter - something I've seen numerous coaches do.
The reasoning behind this is what I hit on early in this article...the fact that the NY Giants beat the New England Patriots in the Super Bowl - twice - and we all saw the dismantling of the NFL's highest-scoring-EVER offense in the Denver Broncos this past Super Bowl by the Seattle Seahawks.
All three winners (NFC teams) defeated the AFC teams by keeping them from getting comfortable on offense. When a QB gets harassed and hit even without necessarily getting sacked, even if it's Peyton Manning or Tom Brady, they start getting "happy feet" and are affected psychologically. When a QB isn't getting protection, his performance inevitably falls. He begins to miss targets, throw the ball too soon, or otherwise become rattled and not perform the little things he's been doing to get them to the playoffs and/or Super Bowl. It also has a spillover effect as the others on the offense see what's happening, and their performances inevitably suffer as well.
This is why the Panthers went 12-4 last year - even with an offense that couldn't hit 4 yards per carry in the running game and was dead last in plays of 20 yards or longer.
When we played San Francisco in Candlestick our offense could only muster ten points so the defense only allowed nine. However, it was a different story when they came to Bank of America Stadium in the playoffs - with their previously injured weapons intact.
While the story STILL goes "Defense Wins Championships" and is as true as ever, having the NFL's worst offense puts an extremely heavy burden on that defensive unit...no matter how good it is.
What we saw in the recent NFL draft was a draft split evenly between offense and defense for Carolina. Gettleman's strategy was to get some help for the weak part of the defense - the defensive backfield - while making sure we can keep the heat on opposing offenses in drafting Kony Ealy.
On offense, he reached in the first round for a "project" WR in Kelvin Benjamin. I did NOT like this pick because it will take some time for him to develop, even more than other WRs left on the board like Jordan Matthews and Allen Robinson (Robinson is a favorite of mine). He also added a guard in Trai Turner, then wrapped things up in the 6th round with a between-the-tackles runner.
Gettleman basically made our strong points stronger - defense and the power running game, while addressing injuries the last 2 years at guard. He did NOT address any edge-blockers and that is my greatest concern about this draft above all else.
After all....if "you can never have too many pass rushers," it would seem to follow that you can "never have too GOOD of a guy to block such people," does it not?
I understand he didn't want to "reach" for a starting LT in the first round, bypassing Nevada's Joel Bitonio, but what gets me is that Kelvin Benjamin is NOT a "safe choice" either. He's a redshirt-sophomore coming off the game-winning catch in the BCS national championship game, but otherwise he had something like 39 yards in the game on 4 catches. A lot of that was due to Auburn's defense, but the game-winning catch was due to Benjamin's size....playing "above the rim."
"Mel Mayock" noted that both Kony Ealy and Trai Turner had the best 3-cone drill times at their respective positions at the NFL combine, showing that they are very quick athletes for their size.
This makes the fact that Kelvin Benjamin's 3-cone time for WRs was dead last that much more disconcerting. Of course, one would expect a slot-type WR like Brandin Cooks to have a good drill time but it would have been nice to see that Benjamin has some agility that he apparently lacks. Again - not my favorite pick in round one.
At least the Panthers have edge-rushers in place for 2014 along with the NFL's top middle linebacker in Luke Kuechly....the "Man of Steel." Add in the Pro-Bowl talent next to him in Thomas Davis as well as an untested but well thought-of rookie from last year in AJ Klein, and that front-seven is even better than it was last year.
If the additions of Tre Boston and Bene "The Fed Chief" Benwikere can start paying dividends by the stretch run in 2014, it's possible that the defense can remain dominant.
12-4 dominant? With the holes we still have on offense?
Unfortunately, I don't see it....not with the improvements the other teams in the division made.
More on THAT, later....
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