The retirement of Rob Ninkovich leaves the Patriots with an opening at one of their defensive end spots heading into the season and one of the players in the mix is Kony Ealy.
Ealy was acquired from the Panthers in an offseason trade and is getting acquainted with what the team is looking for from a player at his position. During his Tuesday press conference, coach Bill Belichick outlined where those things differ from what Ealy was doing with his old team and how Ealy is adjusting to the new scheme.
“I think we’ve asked him to do more in coverage than what he did at Carolina. Carolina doesn’t do a lot with their defensive ends in pass coverage,” Belichick said in comments distributed by the team. “We probably do significantly more than they do, not with their linebackers, but their ends that have coverage responsibilities more frequently, so those are things he’s had to adjust to. But, I mean, he’s a smart kid, he works hard, and he’s building his versatility. We’ll see how far that goes, but he’s got the ability to play inside, to play outside on the end of the line, to play in some coverage situations, to have a role in the kicking game, which is another thing that wasn’t a big role in Carolina. I don’t know how big it will be here, but it’s already, I would say, more than what he had there. We’ve asked him to do some new things, and we’ll evaluate those as we go through camp and see how it goes.”
The Patriots have several other options off the edge, including Trey Flowers, Shea McClellin, Geneo Grissom and rookie Derek Rivers, and they’ve never been shy about mixing and matching players situationally to take full advantage of their abilities. That makes it likely that it will be some combination of players filling the hole left by Ninkovich once September rolls around.