For Kony Ealy, "F" usually stands for fun. This week it stands for something a little different.
"I'm focused on my team," the Jets defensive lineman told reporters today as the week builds toward his reunion on the playing field Sunday with the Carolina Panthers, his team of his first three NFL seasons. "I'm focused on the team here I'm playing with and the guys I'm out there playing with, and we're all focused on trying to get this 'W' on Sunday."
Ealy wasn't going to tip his hand on any feelings toward the Panthers and seeing some old friends at MetLife Stadium when the Jets return to action.
Has he corresponded with any of his old teammates this week? "No, I'll do that after the game," he said.
Any emotions bubbling up inside yet? "No, no," he replied. "At the end of the day, I'm worried about focusing on winning the game."
Ealy's approach has worked so far. After being traded by Carolina to New England in March and waived by the Patriots and acquired by the Jets in August, Ealy has shown himself to be a, well, focused playmaker on Sundays.
He's got just one sack, of the Bills' Tyrod Taylor two games ago. But he's also forced opponents into three holding penalties and has seven QB hits, tied for third on the Jets despite playing in a little more than 50% of the defensive snaps.
And of course, shades of Shane Burton, there are the PDs, passes defensed. With another swatdown at Tampa Bay, Ealy has nine for the season. That's an average of exactly one PD per game (he sat out Cleveland with an injury) and it's still easily the most by any NFL defensive lineman this season.
"I played basketball growing up," Ealy explained. "It's just going out there and reacting, not thinking too much, just doing what I need to do as far as a pass rusher, trying to be disruptive whether I'm in on third down, second down or first down."
Ealy's mantra — "If you're thinking too much, you're probably reacting too slow" — is endorsed by head coach Todd Bowles.
"Kony's he's obviously getting a better grasp of the system. It took a while to get that down," Bowles said. "He's not thinking as much and he's just going out and playing." As for the PDs, Bowles said, "Some guys I've seen bat down passes all the time and some guys I've seen don't bat down any passes. It doesn't mean you're any less effective. But he has a feel for it."
Ealy also has a feel for what the Green & White defense needs to do Sunday to make this week's undercurrent of "fighting for playoff position" take a little more serious form, and that is to keep Cam Newton under wraps.
"Cam is talented," said Newton's former teammate. "He has a lot of players around him that obviously make his talent expanded. We've just got to do a great job of studying film, studying the game plan, and going out there and executing the things we need to do on defense.
"Our job is to create havoc on the defensive side of the ball and score points on the offensive side of the ball."
And against a tough but conquerable Carolina side, the Jets will need a big Thanksgiving helping of Ealy's focus the rest of this week.
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