FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- Kony Ealy says he can feeling it coming. He estimates he's within 85 to 90 percent of being the dominating defensive lineman the New York Jets hoped he would be when they claimed him off waivers in late August.
Ealy still is looking for his first sack of the season, and this might not seem like the week he’ll break through. He missed two days of with an excused absence for personal reasons, which he wouldn’t disclose.
But the Jets (1-2) host the Jacksonville Jaguars (2-1) on Sunday at MetLife Stadium, and Jacksonville quarterback Blake Bortles might be the perfect target for Ealy and his linemates. Bortles has been sacked 142 times in three-plus NFL seasons.
“Every time you pop on the tape we’re in the quarterback’s face, we’re pushing the pocket," Ealy told ESPN.com. “We missing them by a hair. We get hands on them, we just didn’t get him all the way down.’’
Bortles has been sacked only twice this season. He almost lost his starting job in the preseason, but the 6-foot-5, 232-pounder from Central Florida bounced back after getting benched and boasts a 93.8 rating.
The Jets have just five sacks on the season, tied for 27th in the NFL. They got to Jay Cutler three times in a 20-6 victory in Week 3. At 6-foot-3 and 231 pounds, Cutler, 34, like Bortles, presented a big target in the pocket. Bortles, 25, is younger and more mobile.
Ealy says New York's defensive line is focusing more on itself than on the opposing quarterback. The fourth-year pro said he’s seen defensive lines take upward of six weeks before hitting stride. The Jets, said Ealy, are closer than that.
“We saw sparks of that last week, and as weeks increase we should see more and more of that,’’ Ealy said. “As the weeks increase, you should see more and more of me just being more comfortable and going out there and just triggering.’’
Ealy had 14 sacks in his first three seasons with the Carolina Panthers. At 6-foot-4, 275 pounds with a time of 4.69 seconds in the 40-yard dash, Ealy was compared to Seattle Seahawks lineman Michael Bennett coming out of college at Missouri.
He’s flirted with greatness. He became the first player in Super Bowl history to record an interception and multiple sacks when he did so in Super Bowl 50. But he’s had stretches when he hasn’t affected a game.
Ealy said that’s about to change. When asked what it will look like when he’s at his best, Ealy said, "destructive."
“Especially when I have an opportunity to keep coming, keep running, keep feeding. Destructive.’’