FLORHAM PARK, N.J. — Kony Ealy only looks back long enough to know what to do going forward.
Sure, he watched on Thursday night. But he didn’t harbor any illusions of what could have been. He wasn’t tormented by how the Patriots could have used his defense in their loss to the Chiefs. Images of sacking Alex Smith did not dance in his head.
Despite leaving the team that many project to be repeat winners of the Super Bowl, Ealy, who was waived in late August, doesn’t focus on the five short months he spent with the Patriots or the bitter end to his time with the Panthers. It’s not a source of motivation, he said, because he’s too busy thinking about what the Jets defense can accomplish here — mainly, prove a legion of naysayers wrong.
When he does focus on the past, he said, it’s to bring his playoff and Super Bowl experience to a number of players who have never gotten that far. Never mind that right now, the playoffs seem about as attainable to the Jets as a round trip to Mars.
“We’ve got a great bunch of talented guys on this defense and we’re going to turn some heads,” the edge rusher said. “I believe in any situation and especially in the National Football League, any team has that ability, that capability to go as far as they can go. Obviously, it’s up to us, how big our season can be, but it feels as long as everyone is doing their job and everybody has that right chemistry, we’ll go as far as we need to.”
His proclamations border on credulous, but for a team as young as the Jets, the optimism does more good than bad. Ealy set the playoffs ablaze in 2015 and recorded three sacks, a forced fumble and an interception in the Panthers’ Super Bowl loss to the Broncos, but said that before all that, he did his best to learn from the experiences of then-teammates like Roman Harper, who won a Super Bowl with the Saints before joining the Panthers.
“That’s the same thing I’m trying to bring to this team as far as the young guys,” he said. “You’ve got some guys on this team that have been to Super Bowls like [Jermaine] Kearse, who just joined this team, so you got guys that have a little bit of Super Bowl and playoff experience and that’s all you can bring to a team that hasn’t really been there lately, obviously. We’re trying to do what we can individually and as a team to inspire each other.”
Despite Ealy’s only joining the Jets on Aug. 27, Leonard Williams said he’s adapted quickly. Part of that has to do with Ealy being much more suited to the Jets’ defensive scheme than the Patriots’.
“He’s just a natural pass rusher,” Williams said. “That was the first thing I saw from Day 1 that he’s a talented pass rusher, and having him come out there on the edge is definitely going to help a lot of our inside pass rushers because they have to respect him more on the edge . . . We’re going to need a good pass rusher on that edge.”
As for Ealy, he’s simply worried about being as disruptive as possible on the field. “I filled my tank up with a lot of gas,” he said. “I’m eager to get out here and just be able to perform. I’m not worried about any extra things that are going on. I just want to be able to come out here and put a good show on. That’s it.”