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Sean’s Scout: As Late FA Signing, New DE Kony Ealy Brings Value to Cowboys D

Sean Martin

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Sean's Scout: As Late FA Signing, New DE Kony Ealy Brings Value at DE

At the 2014 NFL Draft, the Dallas Cowboys opted to trade up in the second round for pass rusher DeMarcus Lawrence - who will enter 2018 as their franchise player, recording 14.5 sacks last season. While it is safe to say they made the right decision on that night, we no longer have to speculate on what could have been. The Cowboys' original plan at 47th overall was to draft Missouri DE Kony Ealy, who instead went at pick #60 to the Carolina Panthers.

After three seasons with the Panthers, and a 2017 campaign with the New York Jets, Ealy now finds himself in Dallas. The latest Cowboys free agent acquisition adds further depth at DE, a position the team should still be looking to address early in this month's draft.

As far as FA signings in April go, Kony Ealy is certainly a worthwhile name for the Cowboys to "kick the tires on" as they continue to search for a starting right end. As a rotational player with the Jets last year, Ealy rushed off of both ends with minimal success, appearing in 15 games but only securing one sack.

Here is his full scouting report.

DE Kony Ealy: Strengths

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Kony Ealy is a lengthy pass rusher that takes long and balanced strides off the edge to capture the corner. Earning opportunities to "rush the half man" was not a problem for Ealy with the Jets, as he consistently fired off the ball with above average burst - sometimes enough to generate leverage and disengage.

Ealy's ability to play with lower body power was the most impressive part of his game at both left and right defensive end. Ideally, this is a situational RDE for the Cowboys, although Ealy is certainly solid enough against the run to warrant snaps on both sides.

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Ealy is a fluid player, one that has no problem flowing to the ball while keeping blockers at a distance with his length. At 6'4", this is a lanky rusher that can be difficult to control at the line of scrimmage.

Kony Ealy was rarely seen completely washed out of a play, as he is not afraid to counter inside of his blockers and plug gaps.

DE Kony Ealy: Weaknesses

This is a player that gets stopped too easily through a lot of his rush moves, which Ealy does not have a great feel for. There were plenty of snaps where Ealy would set the tackle up to be beat to either side, only to allow him to recover by working into Kony's frame.

There is very little power in Kony Ealy's slender upper body or hands, which is a very noticeable weakness in his game. Despite showing some ability to flip his hips and attack the pocket, Ealy has to do a better job of disengaging to finish these plays.

When Ealy does not get a great jump on the snap, he will struggle to gain any leverage, despite showing off some decent corner bend. This is the area that Ealy is most affected by not having a reliable counter rush move.

DE Kony Ealy: Summary

As mentioned, this is likely as good as it gets for depth signings by the Dallas Cowboys prior to the 2018 NFL Draft. In no way should Kony Ealy be looked at as a progress stopper for any of the young DEs on this team - including ones that may be added at the draft.

When any player hits the open market, every team will look back at their initial evaluation of that player from their respective draft. Like many other teams, the Cowboys did not quite hit on what Kony Ealy would be in the NFL.

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This is not to say that Rod Marinelli won't get the most out of a rusher with some solid traits to play as a sideline-to-sideline defensive end, but overall expectations should remain rather low for Kony Ealy with the Cowboys.

Tell us what you think about "Sean’s Scout: As Late FA Signing, New DE Kony Ealy Brings Value to Cowboys D" in the comments below. You can also email me at Sean.Martin@InsideTheStar.com, or Tweet to me at @SeanMartinNFL!



Born January 28th, 1996- Cowboys Super Bowl XXX. Point Boro Panther, Montclair State Red Hawk, and most importantly a proud member of Cowboys Nation! I host "Upon Further Review" on 90.3 WMSC FM and wmscradio.com every Friday from 1-4 PM ET. Twitter: @SeanMartinNFL.

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2 Comments
  • Derek Robinson

    So Sean, do we add his Super Bowl performance to your equation. Cause last I checked if you can ball out under that kind of pressure, man you get my vote. I think Kony on one side, D Law on the other. And with the 19th pick in the 2018 NFL draft. The Dallas cowboys select Vita Vea.

  • Russ_Te

    Cheap replacement for Mayowa, with similar inability to make an impact at RDE. OT Fleming is the only strong sign-up so far IMO this offseason.

    I got the 8-8 blues… ;^)

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Sean’s Scout: Measuring Randy Gregory’s Impact on Cowboys Defense

Sean Martin

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Sean's Scout: Measuring Randy Gregory's Potential Impact on Cowboys Defense

The Dallas Cowboys report to training camp next week, and for the first time in a long time there may be more excitement for their defense compared to a largely reshuffled offense. This hype for Rod Marinelli's defense, bolstered by the addition of Passing Game Coordinator Kris Richard, was elevated earlier in the week when the Cowboys learned Defensive End Randy Gregory would be reinstated.

Gregory's presence as a potential starting right defensive end is an uplifting one for the Cowboys as they depart for Oxnard. Above all else, this is a rare turn of fortunes for a player the NFL can now tote as a success story.

Once Gregory's focus shifts towards taking hold of that starting DE position for good and giving the Cowboys a pass rush of him and DeMarcus Lawrence off the edge, his impact could change the entire complexion of this defense.

After watching Gregory's last game for Dallas, a week 16 win in Philadelphia back in 2016, here is what I saw from the Cowboys "Christmas in July" addition to their defensive line.

Gregory3

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This first clip is probably Gregory's most memorable play through three seasons with the Cowboys. Two teams going in opposite directions since this game, the Cowboys have cycled through their rotation of pass rushers to play the weak side -- with nobody coming close to the athleticism and bend Gregory displays here.

Already planning on attacking the offensive tackle to the outside with his long arm approach, Gregory regains his balance avoiding the low block to get even with Carson Wentz and finish the play. This type of relentlessness is a signature of the Cowboys defense under Marinelli, now fielding a deep group of defensive ends around Gregory and Lawrence.

Gregory1

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Just how much Gregory comes off the field for the likes of Tyrone Crawford, rookie Dorance Armstrong, Charles Tapper, or Taco Charlton will be determined by his ability to hold up against the run. This was a strength for Gregory against the Eagles, as his cornering ability helped him chase down plays all over the field.

It's hard to understate just how important Gregory's speed and range from this RDE spot could mean to the Cowboys, especially given their changes at linebacker for the 2018 season.

This is a team that's also added plenty of range to the second level of their defense with rookie Leighton Vander Esch and another year of Jaylon Smith.

These linebacker's ability to shoot gaps and be disruptive in the backfield will be aided by the depth Gregory is capable of gaining with ease against left tackles.

Gregory2

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Gregory does have a tendency to play upright at times and offer a larger blocking area than needed. As you see above, this can help him as an all-around player, as chasing down the run to the outside comes easy for him.

The Cowboys won't be at full strength at defensive tackle to start the season, with David Irving suspended for the first four games again. Maliek Collins is also coming back from another broken foot, as him and Gregory will be important to watch progress through training camp.

The overall potential for a Cowboys defensive line featuring all three of these players, and the rotational pieces behind them, is incredibly high for a team just looking to get back to their roots this season.

For the Cowboys in 2018, this means running the ball effectively, limiting turnovers on offense, and protecting the lead on defense. Randy Gregory significantly helps the Cowboys do the latter here, improving an already fearsome pass rush in ways that few players are capable of.

This is ultimately why the first-round talent fell to the second round for the Cowboys, who took the risk on Gregory and are now on the long path back towards seeing this gamble pay off, something a very thankful Gregory must see through on the field.

Tell us what you think about "Sean’s Scout: Measuring Randy Gregory’s Impact on Cowboys Defense" in the comments below. You can also email me at Sean.Martin@InsideTheStar.com, or Tweet to me at @SeanMartinNFL!



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Star Blog

Why Patience Is Key In Evaluating Randy Gregory

Kevin Brady

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Will the Dallas Cowboys "Get Lucky" at Defensive End?

The Cowboys were fully aware of the risks involved when they drafted prolific edge rusher Randy Gregory in the second round of the 2015 NFL Draft.

They were also well aware of the potential rewards too.

Gregory has spent much of his NFL career away from the Dallas Cowboys, dealing with suspension after suspension and rarely playing actual football. Now, Randy Gregory has gained reinstatement into the league, and all signs point to positivity around his future.

As expected, both the Cowboys and their fan base are excited about the return of Gregory to the roster. And, of course, they should be. Gregory possesses all the traits necessary to be a top tier pass rusher in the NFL, even if we haven't seen it on full display thus far.

At his best Gregory is the prototypical RDE that Cowboys Nation has been yearning for. But it's probably unfair for him to reach that potential as early as this season. Pass rushers coming off suspensions, particularly lengthy suspensions, are rarely able to find their way quickly after returning.

And if you want proof of this, you only have to look across the way at DeMarcus Lawrence. After a strong 8 sack 2015 season, Lawrence was suspended the first four games of 2016. Once he returned, Lawrence battled injuries all season and only appeared in 9 games. Over those 9 games Lawrence tallied just 1 sack and made a minimal impact.

The next season, though? DeMarcus Lawrence was back to playing fully healthy and engaged, en route to a team leading 14.5 sacks and the best overall season of his career.

Randy Gregory and DeMarcus Lawrence are different players, and this is obviously a different situation, but the need for patience remains the same. To expect Gregory to be a dominant pass rusher in 2018 is more-than-lofty, as he deserves time to work back into playing shape and perfect his craft off the edge.

Unlike Lawrence, Gregory will have a full offseason and 16 game slate ahead of him. Plus, we haven't heard of any lingering injuries affecting Gregory going forward.

So while we may need to temper expectations at least a little bit, I still expect Randy Gregory to become the RDE we all hoped he could be with time.



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Star Blog

How Should The Cowboys, And The NFL, Value RBs?

Kevin Brady

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Will Cowboys' Offense Improve With Ezekiel Elliott's Return?
Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

There is no one, stand-alone "best" strategy for winning in the NFL. There are, of course, common themes and ideals which run true year in and year out among the top teams.

Strategy in the NFL is dynamic, or at least it should be. Running in place for too long under the same leadership often breeds mediocrity, and refusing to move with current trends can put you at a severe disadvantage.

Succumbing to those trends without fully analyzing the confounding factors your situation presents, however, can also ruin a team building exercise.

With that being said, should teams pay elite running backs top dollar? Or are those running backs expendable, replaceable, and often forgettable within the NFL machine?

To be honest these aren't very fair ways to pose legitimately interesting questions. You can acknowledge that a running back is important to your offense while also acknowledging that you don't want to break the bank for a position with such injury risk and high turnover year-to-year.

The Pittsburgh Steelers are currently facing this dilemma, as their star running back Le'Veon Bell asks to be paid like an elite "weapon," not as a normal running back. And when you examine how the Steelers deploy Bell within their offense, he clearly has a point.

Bell is not your traditional "running back." He lines up on the boundary, in the slot, and is a passing threat out of the backfield as well. On top of all of this versatility, Bell is an excellent pass protector, something which is often lost among other "versatile" backs.

Bell can quite literally do it all for an offense, but the idea of paying that position elite-level money makes teams cringe. As The Athletic's Marcus Mosher pointed out on Twitter, teams like the New England Patriots have been able to replicate Bell's production by using multiple speciality backs rather than one workhorse.

In theory, this takes away the injury risk component to a certain extent. Rather than giving one player 350-400 touches per season, you spread those touches out and allow for players to do what they do best.

Lately, the NFL has seemed to agree that this is the most efficient way to play offense. But when you have a player like Bell or Ezekiel Elliott, in what way is taking the ball out of their hands "efficient" at all? In addition, how is using three players to mimic the skill set of one efficient?

Yes, the NFL is a passing league, but when you have a playmaker who is of the caliber of a Bell or an Elliott, it is up to the offense to deploy in him ways that maximize his value. Teams should be using the Bells and Elliotts of the world as pass catching threats and as weapons all over the field. Force the entire defense to account for your running back rather than just jamming him between the tackles like it's 1975.

The movement towards "running back by committee" rather than the traditional one-back system can also be credited to the lack of workhorse-worthy backs entering the league.

Ezekiel Elliotts don't grow on trees, they are rare and special players. And when you have one, especially when you spend a premium pick on him, you should get the most out of him that you can. Playing winning offense in the NFL is about more than just "do you run or do you pass," and it often hinges on creating splash plays of 15-20 yards.

If you can get those plays through the use of an elite running back, that player becomes intrinsically valuable to your team. No matter what "position" he is labeled as. Of course you want to be able create mismatches in the passing game all over the field, so when you are able to do this with a running back, shouldn't that be deemed as highly valuable?

We can't say just yet if the Cowboys should re-sign Ezekiel Elliott once he enters free agency. After all, five seasons (and a franchise tag year) where he touches the ball more than most players in the league will almost certainly bring about some wear and tear.

But with the way the Cowboys have chosen to play offense, and the way in which they've built their roster, a workhorse back like Elliott is necessary for success.

Once again, at least it is for now.



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