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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Vikings hold off Lions 30-23 to extend win streak to 7

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Vikings hold off Lions 30-23 to extend win streak to 7

DETROIT = Case Keenum threw for two touchdowns and ran for a score in the first half to give the Minnesota Vikings a double-digit lead and they went on to win a seventh straight game, 30-23 over the Lions in the traditional Thanksgiving Day game in Detroit. Click here to read more. 

Pats can find reasons for thanks everywhere

Pats can find reasons for thanks everywhere

The Patriots hit Thanksgiving with an 8-2 record, a stranglehold on first place in the AFC East, and a rest-of-the-season schedule -- save for the much-anticipated meeting with the Steelers on Dec. 17 -- almost bereft of quality opponents. So they have a lot to be thankful for.

But here are some things you may not be aware of . . . 

SURGICAL-GRADE DIPPED LATEX TUBING

Whoever came up with the stuff Tom Brady's resistance bands are made out of -- it's actually "surgical-grade dipped latex tubing sheathed in ballistic nylon," according to the TB12 website -- probably deserves a tip of the cap from the entire region. The 40-year-old uses the bands extensively as part of his training regimen, and he currently leads the league in passing yards, yards per attempt, quarterback rating, rating under pressure and touchdown-to-interception ratio. 

SUSAN SCARNECCHIA

Offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia was retired just a couple of years ago. He traveled. He spent time with his grandchildren. Then the Patriots called. After some time to think about it -- and after talking it over with his wife Susan -- Scarnecchia opted to come back after two years away from the game. At 69 years old, he's helped this year's unit overcome some early-season struggles, and he still seems to be on top of his game. Think the Patriots are happy he had his wife's blessing to jump back in? 

ELECTRONIC TABLETS

You weren't expecting this, were you? Bill Belichick has said he's not a fan . . . but that's on game days. "I’m done with the tablets," he said last year. "I’ve given them as much time as I can give them. They’re just too undependable for me." But when it comes to players using tablets on their own time? They're incredibly useful. Whereas years ago players would have to come into the facility early or stay late in order to watch extra film, now they can study from the comfort of their own homes, on a team flight, or while riding in a car (as long as they aren't driving). For teams that have players who want to be over-prepared, having access to all-22 video at any time can be an advantage. 

DR. ROBERT WATKINS

Who's this, you ask? He's the Los Angeles-based back specialist who operated on Rob Gronkowski's back last year. He operated on the big tight end in 2009 and 2013, and his latest procedure seems to be holding up as well as possible. Gronkowski quickly regained his strength and athleticism, and he continues to be his team's most dynamic offensive weapon. He has 41 catches for 619 yards and five scores this season, and he's been used extensively as a blocker in the running game and in pass protection. Gronkowski deserves credit -- as does the Patriots medical, training and nutrition staffs -- for being so effective in his return to the field, but the Patriots are probably thankful that last year's back surgery went as well as it did.  

FLOWERS CONSTRUCTION COMPANY

Trey Flowers has been arguably his team's most dependable defender this season. According to Pro Football Focus, he's been on the field for 606 snaps, which is fourth among edge defenders. His 338 pass-rush snaps are second among 4-3 defensive ends, per PFF. He's played through injury at times, and he's remained productive. Against the Raiders he had three quarterback hits and three hurries. So why would the Patriots be thankful for Flowers Construction Co.? That's the Huntsville, Alabama company run by Flowers' father, Robert, who put Trey to work when he was growing up. The work ethic he learned on-site has helped him go from a fourth-round pick who lost most of his rookie season to injury into a playing-time iron man and one of the team's most reliable defenders.

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