Patriots

Josh McDaniels: Kony Ealy 'a big part of the challenge' for Patriots vs. Jets

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Josh McDaniels: Kony Ealy 'a big part of the challenge' for Patriots vs. Jets

The Jets have all kinds of new bodies for the Patriots to smash into on Sunday.

There's the quarterback Josh McCown, who's been in the league since 2002 but has only thrown a pass against the Patriots once in his career back in 2004. There's receiver Jermaine Kearse, who arrived to New Jersey in a trade with the Seahawks just before the season began. 

There are the two rookie safeties, Jamal Adams and Marcus Maye, who have quickly become every-down players. And there's a defensive end who has been arguably the Jets' best defender even after missing Week 5 with a shoulder injury. 

Patriots are pretty familiar with him, though.

Kony Ealy has recorded two quarterback hits, eight hurries, five pass breakups and an interception in four games for the Jets, and he told the New York Daily News recently that he "definitely" expected to be ready to face the Patriots at MetLife Stadium.

“It’s something that’s going to be ready to go next week,” Ealy said on Friday. “Just getting a little extra recovery and doing the things necessary.”

Ealy had a rocky camp with the Patriots after arriving to New England via trade with the Panthers. The Patriots sent a second-round pick to Carolina in exchange for the fourth-year defensive end and a third-rounder. He flashed during training camp practices with the Texans in West Virginia, and he recorded three hurries in that preseason game. 

Yet for every impactful play Ealy made as a pass-rusher, there seemed to be others that opened up holes for running backs (or scrambling quarterback DeShaun Watson). He was released during the last week of August. 

"I do think he was making progress and getting better and was really working hard," Belichick said following the move. "It's just one of those things that didn’t work out or wasn’t going to work out. It’s nobody’s fault. He worked hard. We worked hard. There was a lot of effort put in, but in the end we didn’t feel like this was going to work out.

"It gives him an opportunity about a week ahead of next week to hopefully create a better opportunity for himself. I think he deserved that. He did everything we asked him to do. It just didn’t work out for either one of us like we hoped it would."

Without Ealy, the Patriots have relied heavily on defensive end Trey Flowers as well as rookies Adam Butler and Deatrich Wise. Defensive end Cassius Marsh, who arrived to the Patriots in a trade with the Seahawks just before the start of the season, has played 153 snaps on the edge. Dont'a Hightower has also filled some edge responsibilities when he's been healthy enough to play. 

According to ESPN, the Patriots have been one of the least-efficient teams in the league when it comes to sacking the quarterback through five weeks. They have recorded 10 sacks (tied for 23rd in the NFL), and they have sacks on 5.3 percent of opponent pass attempts (28th).

The Jets seem to be a good fit for Ealy thus far, and if he's healthy enough to play, he'll be one of several players the Patriots have to handle -- along with Leonard Williams and Muhammad Wilkerson -- along the defensive line. 

"He’s certainly been a productive guy for them," Josh McDaniels said of Ealy. "He’s got his hands on some balls at the line of scrimmage. I know he had the one opportunistic interception. He’s created some pressure on the quarterback. He’s one of a lot of guys that they’ve got that can do that . . . 

"They’ve got a lot of length and they can be disruptive off the edge, also. They’ve got a deep group. Kony’s a part of it now, and we certainly are familiar with some of the things with him from being in camp with him, and [he will] be a big part of the challenge that we’ve got to deal with on Sunday afternoon."

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Report: James Harrison could return to Patriots

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Report: James Harrison could return to Patriots

James Harrison was a larger than life figure during his time in Pittsburgh. 

It was as if God molded him to be a member of the Steelers: massive, physical, and an absolute bruiser.

But at the end of the day he is a football player. And athletes in this sport don't particuarly like time on the bench.

Mike Tomlin and the rest of the Steelers organization were reminded of this fact in a very harsh manner.

At the end of the December, Harrison made a late season move to sign with the Patriots. It left his former teammates in Pittsburgh frustrated, and his former fans confused.

But at the end of the day he just wanted to be on the football field again. And that's exactly where Belichick put him.

Harrison had the opportunity to appear in many more situations, and had several sacks at the end of the season.

Now there is a new report from Christopher Price of the Boston Sports Journal that he could re-sign with the Patriots in 2018.

A source close to Price and Harrison said "there's a reasonable chance" that he could be on the roster next year.

He will be playing this upcoming season at age 40, and has previously stated he'd like to play one or two more seasons.

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King: It was football, not family that kept McDaniels with Patriots

King: It was football, not family that kept McDaniels with Patriots

There have been all kinds of theories of what ultimately kept Josh McDaniels from taking the Indianapolis Colts head coaching job.

NBC Sports Boston Patriots Insider Tom E. Curran offered his here and here. Ex-Pats linebacker Willie McGinest said he was told it wasn't because McDaniels was promised to eventually succeed Bill Belichick. 

Now comes Sports Illustrated's Peter King, who told NBCSports Network's "PFT Live" that you can cross off the theory that McDaniels' reversal was about not wanting to move his family to Indianapolis. 

“This had nothing to do with his family,” King said. “It was about the Patriots giving him a better option than Indianapolis.”

More here from NBCSports.com's Pro Football Talk.