After being cut by New England, Ealy was claimed by the New York Jets and is enjoying a bounce-back season. The Panthers' former second-round pick has been a disruptor for Todd Bowles, earning a whopping nine batted balls to lead all defensive linemen. In nine games he has 12 tackles and a sack.
This week, Ealy will face off against his former team when the Jets host Cam Newton and the Panthers on Sunday at MetLife Stadium. The pass rusher told NFL Network's Good Morning Football he is hoping to serve his old teammates a dish of cold revenge (#RevengeGame).
"I've got a lot of friends I played with over there and a lot of coaches," Ealy said. "It's going to mean more to me playing in that game and just being fired up about going out there and just really doing what I need to do for my team. But also, getting a little revenge, I guess you could say."
After a breakout performance in the Panthers' Super Bowl loss, Ealy had a disappointing 2016 season, which led to Carolina cutting ties before the season. After not fitting schematically in New England, the Jets claimed Ealy, and he's performed well in a contract season.
A big day versus his former team would be icing on the cake for a young player who wants to prove a team gave up on him too soon. A win over the Panthers would also keep the Jets' waning playoff hopes alive.
Despite losing four of their past five games, the Jets are hanging out on the outskirts of a sad AFC playoff picture. As Jets players have all year, Ealy dismissed any notion that New York should tank the rest of the season.
"I was a contender for three years -- well, two years. I don't believe in losing and having losing seasons and not being able to be there at the end of the picture," he said. "We've got a young team, a promising team for the future. But our mentality now is to still make the playoffs and take one game at a time. And that's what we are going to do. We're not worried about what everyone else is talking about."
The Jets have a ridiculously tough schedule the rest of the way: vs. Carolina, vs. Kansas City, at Denver, at New Orleans, vs. the Los Angeles Chargers, at New England. Each of those six teams could be in the playoffs.
The Jets might not purposely tank the rest of the way, but the results could easily be the same as if they tried to lose.