[vc_row no_margin=”true”][vc_column width=”1/1″]
Whether it’s his franchise quarterback or the 90th guy on the roster, it’s not often Carolina Panthers’ coach Ron Rivera freely admits a fault of one of his players. That’s what made his response to a question about defensive end Kony Ealy earlier in camp somewhat curious.
“The big thing that has to happen is he has to be consistent, and he hasn’t been consistent yet. When he gets consistent, you’ll know he’s arrived. It’s two good ones, one bad one. Or two bad ones, two good ones. It’s got to be consistent,” Rivera said.
That’s certainly not the harshest critique, but from a coach who always seems to find a way to paint his guys in a positive light, it stood out.
Ealy also stood out Friday night in the Panthers’ preseason opener, but for the wrong reasons. He lost containment on Bills’ quarterback Tyrod Taylor twice, and he finished without a statistic despite playing 34 snaps, the most on Carolina’s defensive line.
“With this being our first game being back, you expect stuff like that, but I know coach had a different mindset, especially for the defense,” Ealy said Monday.
And perhaps that shows some of the disconnect because, yeah, Rivera certainly was expecting more.
Shortly after third-string quarterback Joe Webb led a game-winning drive in the final two minutes, Rivera was far from chipper. Among his frustrations:
“I’m disappointed in what we had from our defensive line going into the second quarter.”
So it’s not like Ealy was the only end who wasn’t heard from Friday. The four guys competing to start across from Charles Johnson — Ealy, Frank Alexander, Mario Addison and Wes Horton — played a combined 109 snaps but totaled three tackles, a quarterback hurry and no sacks.
“I’m disappointed in my play as well,” Alexander said Monday, repeating what he told BBR postgame. “I wanted to get better, and I will get better.”
The lack of pressure was so noticeable Friday, undrafted free agent Rakim Cox has become a fan favorite after he dominated the final drive. Because of that interest, Cox also met with the media Monday.
“I feel like I’m right there with everyone else,” he said, when asked where he felt he fit in among the competition on the defensive line.
That’s the right attitude, and Cox did make an argument for a longer look come preseason game No. 2, but the Panthers would rather not be dependent on a guy who was out of the league last year.
Rivera remains hopeful a second starting end will emerge, and if that happens, Alexander still appears to be the most likely candidate. Despite Ealy’s strong finish to his rookie season, he hasn’t appeared to pick up where he left off. Or maybe he’s just being misread.
When asked if he felt Rivera is harder on him than other players, Ealy laughed.
“No, not at all. I know what he expects out of me as a player, as an individual,” he said. “He’s a players’ coach, and he knows how to get the best out of his players.
And what does he expect out of Ealy?
“To be a dominant end, period.