Ealy looks to be one of the top two or three options for Dallas on the defensive side of the ball, and I can’t see the franchise going in the offensive direction for the second straight year in the first round—but remember that anything is possible.If we compare the statistics posted by both Ealy and Clowney in 2013, the numbers point towards the former being a more attractive prospect, although the circumstances surrounding the two prospects are quite different.
Clowney attracted more dramatic attention from opposing offensive lines last season than any other defender in the country, thanks in part to a simple highlight which went viral on the internet a year ago. Clowney’s helmet-removing hit on Michigan running back Vincent Smith in the 2013 Outback Bowl propelled him to instant fame and likely would have made him the first overall selection in the ’13 draft had he been eligible.
Things were a bit different for Ealy as he entered his junior season with the Tigers.
Instead of YouTube making him a household name before he was even old enough to play pro football, Ealy had to build on a solid sophomore campaign that saw him well within the large shadow cast by ’13 first-round selection Sheldon Richardson, the first defensive tackle off the board last April.
Ealy chalked up 3.5 sacks in ’12 and added 10.0 tackles for a loss. He would finish with 37 tackles overall.
Last season was a bit different as Ealy answered any and all questions regarding his ability to succeed at a university that also produced San Francisco 49ers pass-rushing linebacker Aldon Smith, the seventh overall selection in the 2011 NFL Draft.
Ealy finished his junior year on a high note as he picked up two sacks in the Cotton Bowl against Oklahoma State on January 3 in Arlington, Texas. He would total 9.5 sacks in ’13 and also chalked up 14.5 tackles for a loss, each significant improvements over his ’12 numbers. Ealy also forced three fumbles and intercepted a pass.
Yes, the arrow is pointing straight up for Ealy, a prospect who looks absolutely perfect for Dallas defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin’s 4-3 alignment.
Ealy stands 6’5” and weighs 275 pounds, a frame that allows him to possibly see some work on the inside in the NFL. It’s safe to say that there’s some versatility to Ealy’s game and this is always a huge plus when you’re talking about pass-rush specialists.
If there’s a potential drawback for the Cowboys selecting Ealy, it might be the fact that he’s gained most of his experience at right defensive end, the exact same location that DeMarcus Ware plays at. A good question is whether or not Dallas might consider moving Ware to the left side for his second season playing on the defensive line. This would allow the nine-year veteran more favorable matchups against opposing right tackles.
It’s certainly possible that the Cowboys might go in the direction of defensive tackle with their first round pick. Prospects like Minnesota’s Ra’Shede Hageman or Florida State’s Timmy Jernigan would be completely understandable. Dallas veteran tackles like Jay Ratliff and Jason Hatcher are either gone or will be soon and Kiffin will need more to work with than just Nick Hayden, Corvey Irvin, Frank Kearse and possibly Ben Bass—that’s it for defensive tackles on the roster at this time.
Otherwise, the pass rush is a primary concern for the Cowboys as they weren’t exactly special in this area last season. Ware missed the first games of his career due to injury and who knows whether or not Anthony Spencer, much more of an outside linebacker at his size—same for Kyle Wilber—will have much career left anywhere. Not to ignore George Selvie, but I have to see another effort like last season’s before I start thinking that he’s the primary pass rushing defensive end upfront.
Ealy played his final college football game at the venue formerly known as Cowboys Stadium. It might be good, at least for Cowboys fans, to see him play his next game in the very same place, unless Jones decides to keep building his army of tight ends—again, anything is possible.