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Film review: Can Kony Ealy jumpstart Raiders pass rush?

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NFL: Buffalo Bills at New York Jets Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Two new pass rushers were recently added to the Raiders roster. Kony Ealy and Jacquies Smith. Smith has been a journeyman during his 4-year NFL career and his contributions will likely be as depth and special teams player. Kony Ealy, on the other hand, is a very talented player who has the potential to be a major contributor down the road for the Raiders.

Ealy was drafted in the 2nd round in 2014 out of Missouri, a school known for churning out great pass rushing prospects during the few years Ealy attended. Ealy boasts a prototype frame for a defensive end; coming in at 6’4, 275 lbs with over 34-inch arms.

He has a lot of physical talent and has played great in big moments. Most notably he shares the record for number of sacks in a Super Bowl, notching 3.0 sacks for the Panthers against Denver in 2015. Since then, however, Ealy has been on a downward trend in the NFL.


I couldn’t find much about Kony Ealy’s struggles since he played in that Super Bowl game. But he lost playing time in Carolina the season after before getting traded. He wasn’t even worth a roster spot with the Patriots. With the Cowboys he was allowed to practice multiple positions, including defensive tackle before being among the final roster cuts before the season.

In other words; don’t get your hopes up, Raiders fans. Gruden and his staff haven’t gotten much, if anything, out of their free agent signings so far this year and a player like Ealy whose desire is a question mark doesn’t seem like the kind of guy to turn that around. But if you just can’t help yourself and want to see the best case scenario for Ealy as a Raider, take a look at what he’s put on film the last two seasons.

Pass rush

Here Ealy lines up at left end and rushes from the QB’s blind side. He is not a speed rusher despite his athletic profile instead uses his strength to split a double team and get the sack on this play.

This is a great rush from Ealy because he converts his bull rush into a push-pull rip move outside. When that doesn’t work he rips back inside to finish the play. This type of effort, even if its only for a handful of plays would be an upgrade over the sorry excuse for a pass rush the Raiders currently have.

This sack in 2016 came against the Saints backup left tackle so take it for what it’s worth. Ealy does a great job of hand fighting to start the rep, negating the tackle’s initial punch. Ealy is able to win inside by taking advantage of the tackle over setting and gets a sack.

Drew Brees has a quick trigger so anytime you see a player get a sack against him it’s a good play and of course Ealy has the luxury of playing on a great defense when he was in Carolina. He will not have this luxury with the Raiders so the jury it will remain to be seen if he can have a similar impact.

Pass deflections

This is a legitimate part of Ealy’s game and he makes this play at an above average rate. Ealy recorded 9 pass deflections while playing for the jets and it’s an area of his game that has improved each year in the NFL.

On this play Ealy attempts to win inside but gets driven off his rush plan. He is able to get his hand up and time a pass deflection perfectly against Blake Bortles.

Kony Ealy doesn’t just make this play against average NFL QBs. He recorded an interception against Peyton Manning in the 2015 Super Bowl and also made this play against Drew Brees in 2016. The play design is suppose to leave him unblocked so he will crash down on the play action fake.

But Ealy isn’t fooled and has the body control in space to stay in Brees’ passing lane, and the athleticism to time a deflection against the future Hall of Fame quarterback.

Run defense

Ealy actually can be a solid run defender. He lines up over the right tackle on this play and does a text book job of setting the edge. He loads up on his near foot and delivers a blow to the blocker, getting full hip extension and driving the man into the backfield. He comes off the block and makes and tackle for a loss when the RB tries to bounce around his edge.

This is an interesting rep for Ealy because initially he over-runs the play by getting too far upfield. This may have been a called pass rush or Ealy not being disciplined enough to read run first. Either way Ealy shows off his athleticism by spinning out of the block and making a tackle in pursuit. The discipline is suspect here, but his effort can’t be denied.


Ealy has the ability to become the best defensive end on the Raiders roster, but this coaching staff so far can’t get free agents going so don’t hold your breath.

The 5-year veteran is on his fourth team in the past 2 seasons. This is a serious question mark and he will need to prove he can actually keep a job before Raiders can count on him.

He is a scheme fit for Guenther who values defensive ends with extra length. Don’t be shocked to see Ealy drop in coverage at times considering how much Guenther loves calling that.

Ealy still has a lot left in the tank. The hope is the Raiders can get him to improve this season and keep him as a future piece to build around.