With the departures of Chris Long and Jabaal Sheard, New England had a need at defensive end, no matter how nebulous that position name is within their defense. The retirement of Rob Ninkovich only furthered that need, which made Ealy’s slow start to camp, when he was missing in action the first day, even more troubling.
Ealy was remarkably unspectacular in the training camp practices I witnessed. In early preseason game action he looked just as bad. Yes, he started to make some plays here and there but it just wasn’t enough and Ealy was released after the Patriots third preseason game.
He was slow off the ball, unable to defeat blocks and was just generally ineffective and not impactful.
What happened? How can an experienced pro who was a standout in Super Bowl 50 get completely untracked in New England? When Bill Belichick says it just didn’t work out, no hard feelings, what’s at the root of why it didn’t work out?
Most of it fits into New England’s defensive scheme, which is unique. It’s not the first time a promising veteran defender hasn’t been able to do what the scheme requires, with Terrence Knighton being the latest example last season.
Let’s look a little deeper at what the Patriots ask their defensive ends/outside linebackers/edge players to do, and why it can be difficult for some players to grasp.