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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Chris Long doesn't put stock in Brady-Belichick drama. "It took everything to beat them."

Chris Long doesn't put stock in Brady-Belichick drama. "It took everything to beat them."

In an interview with The Big Lead, Philadelphia Eagles defensive end Chris Long spoke on the drama surrounding Tom Brady and Bill Belichick

It's safe to say he doesn't put much stock into it

I just think any NFL team, any NFL locker room under a lot of stress over a year period, there are going to be storylines people can choose to kind of blow out of proportion or not pay attention to. I think everyone’s going to pay attention to sometimes really small issues. Whatever people are alluding to going on up there hasn’t affected their play, it hasn’t affected their bottom line. It hasn’t affected how they executed on Sundays. 

Long played with the Patriots during the 2016 season and won Super Bowl 51 with them before signing a two-year contract with the Eagles. The Eagles then went on to beat New England in Super Bowl 52. If anyone outside of the Patriots' locker room has an idea of the culture inside the past two years, Long has to be one of them. 

It took everything for us to beat them. It took a heroic performance by Nick Foles and we had to play our best game. So while everybody likes to always point to the Patriots as being under duress or there’s some drama in the locker room, there’s drama in every locker room that you could blow out of proportion. They’re just on top and those stories sell because they’ve been so great.

ESPN's Seth Wickersham released a story detailing some of the issues that arose in New England over the past few years in January, and with Brady missing almost all of the Patriots' voluntary workouts last month, some have started to wonder whether this is the end for one of both of Brady-Belichick. 

While their hasn't been much public acknowledgement from either side about the drama, but Long certainly doesn't see much substance to the noise. 

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Tony Romo's Super Bowl prediction draws response from Tom Brady

Tony Romo's Super Bowl prediction draws response from Tom Brady

Tony Romo's Super Bowl prediction of the Jacksonville Jaguars taking over the AFC title from the Patriots and facing the Green Bay Packers in Atlanta in SB53 drew a response from Tom Brady on Instagram.

The NFL's official Instagram account posted a photo of Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers and Jags cornerback Jalen Ramsey with the prediction of Romo, the former Dallas Cowboys QB now the analyst on CBS' No. 1 NFL broadcast team. Here's a screenshot, complete with Brady's comment:

Appearing on the NFL Network earlier this week, Romo said rumors of a rift between Brady and coach Bill Belichick are overblown. “I think they probably squabble just like any married couple for 20 years, and then they also love each other.

“I just think when you work together for 15 to 20 years, whatever it is, I think that whenever you have the success that they have, people have to come up with stuff,” Romo said. “I also think that I’ve been upset with my coaches before, and then you come back and you’re fine. And then you get upset with them, and you come back and you’re fine. It’s a part of sports.”

Brady and the Patriots report to camp on July 26.

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