Jan 3, 2014; Arlington, TX, USA; Missouri Tigers defensive lineman Kony Ealy (47) during the game against the Oklahoma State Cowboys in the 2014 Cotton Bowl at AT&T Stadium. Missouri won 41-31. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports
It’s no secret the the Cincinnati Bengals love to draft defensive linemen early. The entire defense is predicated on their ability to generate pressure and let the linebackers and secondary do what they do best. The team has selected at least one defensive lineman in each of the last seven years, not including Wallace Gilberry, who was signed in free agency and plays a big part in the rotation. Therefore, it’s not a stretch of the imagination to picture the Bengals using their first round pick in this year’s draft on another one. If they do, Kony Ealy makes the most sense.
Logic dictates that they could use another talented lineman. Michael Johnson left via free agency and Margus Hunt, last year’s second round pick, is still a big question. Gilberry and Carlos Dunlap are capable pass rushers, and of course Geno Atkins will be featured, but an injury, or a down year from one of them, leaves the team short on sack artists. As they proved in several big games last season, a lack of a pass rush leaves the rest of the defense vulnerable and leads to losses.
Ealy is an NFL-ready pass rusher. He brings a variety of moves, and has a great combination of size (6’4″, 273) and quickness which allows him to effectively get to opposing quarterbacks. He’s also a versatile player who can play inside as well when needed. One knock on him is his play in the run game, where he often leaves himself vulnerable to blocks that take him out of the play. The Bengals like their ends to be effective against the rush as well.
The other thing that makes Ealy attractive to Cincinnati is the players in the draft at the position. After Jadeveon Clowney, the other defensive ends are even more limited. Some lack the size the Bengals prefer, while some lack the talent Ealy has. If they decide to wait, they’ll have some options, but the draft isn’t particularly deep at the 4-3 end position. History says the Bengals will be on the lookout for a pass rusher, and there’s little doubt Kony Ealy makes a ton of sense.