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Cowboys news: What do they have in Kony Ealy, should Dallas draft a linebacker in the first round?

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New Orleans Saints v Carolina Panthers Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images

Dallas Cowboys sign Kony Ealy to bolster pass-rush - Matt Verderame, Fansided
While the signing of Ealy has fans happy about the depth of the defensive end position, what can we expect from the former second-round pick?

Ealy has spent time with three teams in the NFL career. The former star at the University of Missouri was drafted in the first round buy the Carolina Panthers in 2014, but he failed to make the impact that was expected. Last offseason, Ealy was dealt to the New England patriots, but he was cut before the regular season began. The veteran was then claimed off waivers by the New York Jets, where he played in 15 games and recorded 11 tackles and one sack.

In Carolina, Ealy looked like he was going to break out in 2015, when he amassed five sacks in the regular season and another three in Super Bowl 50, a loss to the Denver Broncos. Ealy even recorded the last interception of Peyton Manning’s career in that defeat.

Sean's Scout: As Late FA Signing, New DE Kony Ealy Brings Value to Cowboys D - Inside The Star
Sean Martin from Inside The Star provides a nice scouting report on the Cowboys new edge rusher.

DE Kony Ealy: Strengths

Kony Ealy is a lengthy pass rusher that takes long and balanced strides off the edge to capture the corner. Earning opportunities to "rush the half man" was not a problem for Ealy with the Jets, as he consistently fired off the ball with above average burst - sometimes enough to generate leverage and disengage.

Ealy's ability to play with lower body power was the most impressive part of his game at both left and right defensive end. Ideally, this is a situational RDE for the Cowboys, although Ealy is certainly solid enough against the run to warrant snaps on both sides.

Ealy is a fluid player, one that has no problem flowing to the ball while keeping blockers at a distance with his length. At 6'4", this is a lanky rusher that can be difficult to control at the line of scrimmage.

Kony Ealy was rarely seen completely washed out of a play, as he is not afraid to counter inside of his blockers and plug gaps.

How will Kony Ealy factor into the d-line rotation? - Tim Kohut, The Landry Hat
Kony Ealy looked to be on his way to a promising career after a stellar Super Bowl performance, but things haven't gone as planned since. What can the veteran pass rusher offer the Cowboys?

Despite the low price tag, it’s not crazy to think the former second-round pick could make an impact on the Cowboys.

Apparently, Dallas’ interest in Ealy goes all the way back to the 2014 draft. They were also interested in acquiring the defensive end after the New England Patriots waived him last season. They put a claim in for him, but the Jets ended up acquiring his services because they were higher in the waiver wire.

How does he fit in with the Cowboys?

Returning to a classic 4-3 defense should benefit Ealy’s natural upfield pass rushing ability. And for the Cowboys, Ealy represents the exact dimensions of a defensive end in Rod Marinelli’s defense. Listed at 6-foot-4 and weighing 273 pounds, Ealy is the big pass rusher the Cowboys so frequently look to acquire.

5 Fun Facts About New Defensive End Kony Ealy - Kristi Scales, 5 Points Blue
Get to know the Cowboy new edge rusher with five fun facts, courtesy of Kristi Scales.

1. Ealy Is Tied for Most Sacks in a Super Bowl, Is the First Player in Super Bowl History with Multiple Sacks and an Interception

In Super Bowl 50 as a member of the Carolina Panthers, Ealy sacked Peyton Manning three times and picked him off once. Ealy became the first player in Super Bowl history to record multiple sacks and an interception in a single game. And his 3 sacks tie him with Hall of Famer Reggie White (Green Bay, Super Bowl XXXI) and Darnell Dockett (Cardinals, Super Bowl XLIII) for the most sacks in a single Super Bowl game.

What’s more impressive, Ealy wreaked all that havoc in Super Bowl 50 in only 23 snaps. As a backup to Charles Johnson and Jared Allen, Ealy played only 38% of the defensive snaps in the game. Ealy’s Herculean efforts, however, weren’t enough to win a Super Bowl ring; led by Manning, Von Miller and DeMarcus Ware, the Broncos beat the Panthers 24-10.

Report: Dallas Cowboys worked out DE Ryan Delaire Friday - Sam Quinn, 247 Sports
The Cowboys signed one former Carolina Panthers defensive end this past week; could they sign another? Ryan Delaire missed last season with a torn ACL, but the Cowboys are kicking the tires as they continue to build depth.

This workout could be taken in several ways for the Cowboys. The simplest is that they just want more competition for the defensive ends at the bottom of their roster. Players like Charles Tapper and Datone Jones should not have earned unquestioned roster spots, so bringing in some extra competition could force them to step up and play better in the preseason. The other possibility is that the Cowboys signed Ealy and are now considering Delaire because they are pessimistic about the chances of Randy Gregory getting reinstated by the league in time for the season. There is not a definitive timetable on that decision, so the Cowboys may just need the extra bodies for training camp practices, but bringing in so many players at Gregory's position does not exactly scream "he is coming back."

Has Dallas addressed their 5 biggest points of failure from 2017? - K.D. Drummond, Cowboys Wire
What hurt the Cowboys the most last season and what have they done to mitigate these problems? K.D. Drummond examines.

When Sean Lee was out the lineup

Lee missed two parts of the season, early in the year and then once again when Elliott and Smith were also out. The effect on the defense was nauseating. In the seven games where Lee was out of things, the defense allowed 27.5 points a game. In the nine games he played, just 15.4.

They game up 35 or more points on the season four times, three of them without Lee.

The early games were without Anthony Hitchens as well, but Hitchens was around for the debacle in the middle of the season. He won’t be around this year as he’s with Kansas City now, signing with the Chiefs as a free agent.

Dallas is counting on the improvement of third-year pro Jaylon Smith to offset the loss of Hitchens, but they only signed little-used Joe Thomas in the offseason at the position and have lost depth linebackers Justin Durant and Kyle Wilber as well.

Dallas is down from where they were at the position in 2017 and will have to use the draft to augment it in a major way.

Are there any players who could immediately fill in for Lee should he go down again in 2018?

2018 NFL Draft Battles: Leighton Vander Esch vs. Rashaan Evans - Jeff Hartman, Behind the Steel Curtain
The Pittsburgh Steelers are on the lookout for a linebacker so our sister site Behind the Steel Curtain compares a couple of the late first-round prospects who are also on the Cowboys radar.

Leighton Vander Esch

Big, long and athletic. Has history of achievement with dominant performances and state titles in two sports in high school. Former basketball standout with fluid hips and smooth movement around the field. Almost no delay in his change of direction. Has agility and quick-twitch for sudden lateral bursts in his slides to close out slashers. Triggers with compact burst to the ball. Works under climbing blockers to stay clean. Easy sideline-to-sideline range as tackler. Has athletic ability to recover and tackle despite over pursuit. Widens frame and opens arms to welcome his prey as a tackler. Generally wraps up. Very talented in coverage.

Rashaan Evans

Build like new breed of NFL linebackers. Possesses good length and great speed. Premium athlete with plus agility, range and explosiveness. Quick to diagnose. Works around the trash when scraping. Able to pace to the perimeter with the jet sweepers and scat-backs. Patient against misdirection and isn’t easily baited out of position. Deftly side-steps blocks without giving his gap responsibility. Has athletic ability to dance from gap to gap and look up shifty running backs. Learned from tough guys ahead of him and adapted their demeanor. Explosive, wrap-up striker who sees what he hits.

Fans voted and here are the results...

NFL Draft prospect to know: Leighton Vander Esch, LB, Boise State - Cole Patterson, Blogging The Boys
Our own Cole Patterson takes a closer look at the linebacker prospect from Boise State.

Vander Esch is a player that his warts — like his struggles to get off blocks, only having one big season, and his bizarre similarities to 2006 Cowboys first-round pick Bobby Carpenter; but he also has upside and talent: long and athletic, MWC Defensive Player of the Year, and 141 tackles in one season. While he may not be worth the 19th selection in some eyes, he will certainly be long gone before 50.

5 underrated prospects Cowboys should target during 2018 draft - Clint Lamb, Cowboys Wire
The Cowboys don't like investing premium draft resources in the defensive tackle position, but that doesn't mean they can't land a good one. Clint Lamb identifies some low-flying prospects, including the high-upside DT from Fort Hays State School of Typewriter Maintenance.

Shepherd is the definition of a raw prospect. Fort Hays State is a Division II school located in Kansas, so a lot of that could be the result of the lack of competition. He showed well in the collegiate all-star games though, and proving his skillset translated first in the Collegiate Bowl and then in the Senior Bowl bumped his stock considerably.

Shepherd does possess the tools needed eventually become a high-quality player on the interior of some team’s defensive line. There’s a freaky combination of size (6-foot-5, 315 pounds), strength and athleticism.

It would be unfair to assume that he could step into a major role early in his NFL career, but he’s another guy who could be a prime target in the fourth round.

Let’s finish the final stretch off with some mock goodness...

Brugler: 3-round mock NFL Draft - Dane Brugler, NFL Draft Scout
What does draft guru Dane Brugler have in store for the Cowboys in his latest three-round mock? He opts for a playmaking linebacker who continues to climb up the draft boards.

19. Dallas Cowboys — Leighton Vander Esch, LB, Boise State

Some might see this as a reach, but the Cowboys don’t. Vander Esch is an ascending talent who has very encouraging tape, traits and production, giving Dallas immediate depth at linebacker and a potential Pro Bowler.

Dallas Cowboys mock draft roundup 4/6 - Sam Quinn, 247 Sports
While there is still quite a variety of names being thrown around for the Cowboys first-round pick, but some usual suspects keep showing up in this latest mock roundup from 247 Sports.

Tom Fornelli, CBS Sports: Rashaan Evans, LB, Alabama

”The Cowboys could go quite a few different directions here, but I think Evans will be hard to pass up.”

Evans is ready to contribute right away, and he comes from a great lineage of Alabama middle linebackers. Dont’a Hightower and C.J. Mosley are stars. Rolando McClain was a useful starter for the Cowboys, and it seems as if every linebacker Nick Saban produces goes on to do something of note in the NFL. Evans would serve two roles for the Cowboys. He would give them perhaps the most raw talent in the NFL at linebacker when combined with Jaylon Smith and Sean Lee, but he is also injury insurance for either. Neither are sure things for next season, which makes linebacker one of the most frequently mocked positions for the Cowboys. The other? Wide receiver, and another one of Evans’ teammates is quickly becoming the favorite at No. 19.

The more the merrier: Seven round mock for the Dallas Cowboys - Tom Ryle, Blogging The Boys
The Brews and the Boys dynamic duo of Michael Sisemore and Tom Ryle have been feeling a little mock-a-delic lately. Michael gave us his most recent seven-rounder on Friday and Tom answers back with his on Saturday. Make sure you let them know which one you like better - they got bragging rights at stake.

Pick 19 (round 1): Isaiah Wynn, G, Georgia

I have been making the case since January that the most valuable way to use the first pick of the draft is to address the trenches. That was my guiding principle here, and coming into things, my top three players to address those needs were Wynn, G Will Hernandez, and DT Vita Vea. In this case, it looked like Vea was already likely to be gone, and I lean OG as the more impactful position anyway. You want to see your first-round pick starting, and an offensive lineman is on the field and making a contribution on every offensive snap. With the choice down to Wynn and Hernandez, I went with the higher-ranked player - but between the two, there is no real wrong answer, at least to me. Wynn is the more finished product of the two, so he gets the nod. He is 313 pounds of mean looking to steal people’s souls. With him, the Dallas O line is immediately back in contention for one of, if not the best line in the NFL.

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