Kony Ealy’s position on the Patriots roster "is far from set in stone," according to a league source, who corroborated an earlier report that the team has -- at some point this summer -- shopped around to gauge Ealy’s value.
Despite being in his fourth year, Ealy played 41 snaps Saturday in the second preseason game in Houston. That was second most on the team, behind only undrafted rookie Harvey Langi. With that defensive-end position lean because of injuries and Rob Ninkovich’s retirement, someone had to get those snaps, but Ealy still played nearly double the amount two more undrafted rookies -- Adam Butler (24) and Caleb Kidder (21).
“They made calls,” confirmed the league source, adding, “That’s telling when you consider what they have at that spot.”
Ealy has gotten off to an erratic start with the Pats (detailed here by Phil Perry), but appeared to make some headway during joint practices with the Texans prior to that preseason game. In the game he had 3 1/2 quarterback pressures, an indication that that first-round talent/second-round pedigree hasn’t disappeared. But the inconsistency that plagued Ealy in Carolina has carried over his brief stint in Foxboro.
“He’s got a ton to play for,” said one AFC scout. “There’s a lot of money on the table if he can tap into that talent.”
But, as has been the case with Ealy thus far, that’s not something he’s always been willing to dig deep to find.
The Patriots final injury report before their showdown with the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday includes 10 players listed as questionable and defensive lineman Alan Branch ruled out.
Branch, who hurt his knee in the Monday night loss to the Dolphins, missed three days of practice this week. Among the questionable are linebacker Kyle Van Noy and defensive lineman Trey Flowers, who didn't play against Miami. Tom Brady (Achilles), Brandon Cooks (hand) and Malcolm Butler (ankle) have been removed from the injury report.
Cornerback Joe Haden (fibula) and wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster (hamstring) among the Steelers listed as questionable. The full injury report:
FOXBORO — Rob Gronkowski was not focused on the past or a lengthy press conference Friday.
Speaking with the media for the first time since being handed a one-game suspension for his hit on Tre’Davious White two weeks ago, Gronkowski spoke for less than 2 1/2 minutes before declaring, “I’m out” and leaving the podium.
“I definitely learned about it, but I’m not really here right now [to talk about that],” Gronkowski said. “With the game Sunday, the Pittsburgh Steelers, I’m just putting my focus on them right now. Definitely learned from the mistake that I made, for sure a couple weeks ago, the last game I played in, but we’ve got a huge game this Sunday. We’ve got a huge game as a team this Sunday, so I’m just putting all my focus into the Steelers this week.”
The veteran tight end said that he was glad to be back practicing and playing, but tried to shift the conversation back to the Steelers when asked about the suspension. He declined to share whether he reached out to White after the late hit.
Gronkowski’s return will be a welcomed sight for a Patriots offense that struggled last week without him. Tom Brady played his worst game of the season, completing 24 of 43 passes for 233 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions in New England’s loss to the Dolphins.