Ask Bryan: Ealy making strides

Your thoughts on Kony Ealy? At what point during his rookie season should we expect to see some big plays from him? – Robert in Clarksville, Tenn.

First, here are head coach Ron Rivera's thoughts on Ealy, a promising defensive end the Panthers drafted in the second round from Missouri.

"I think he is a little further ahead," Rivera said Monday. "We didn't expect to have to play him as much as we have. He's done some things; he's missed some opportunities. He's played the run well at times."

Ealy came to Carolina with a reputation for being disruptive against both the run and pass, but he arrived – as most college stars do – with a lot to learn.

"I'm watching the things our older players do as far getting to the passer. I'm trying to take some of the stuff they do and put it toward the stuff that I do and make something out of myself," said Ealy, who has three tackles and one quarterback pressure. "It's a learning experience, but once I get that first sack or TFL (tackle for loss), it's going to start coming more natural. It's going to be a different ballgame."

Since being inactive Week 1, Ealy has played in every game and has been in on about one-third of the Panthers' defensive snaps. In recent games, his snaps have more consistently occurred in meaningful parts of the game. While Ealy could be building toward a breakout game, there's no guarantee that he'll reach that point as a rookie.

Charles Johnson, a third-round draft choice in 2007, didn't play until the last three games of his rookie season. Greg Hardy, a sixth-round choice in 2010, played in 15 games as a rookie and was a factor throughout but still had just three sacks. Generally, it takes time for a defensive end to tackle a large role.

Do you think the defense can turn it around, especially against another tough team in Seattle? – Matt via Twitter

Overall, the defense hasn't played like the unit that ranked second in the NFL a year ago. Not to make excuses, but it is worth noting that three of the four defensive duds have been on the road, and the Packers, Ravens and Bengals (whom the Panthers tied) have consistently battered visiting defenses. The Steelers game, which was at home, started the slide.

This defense is still capable. The Panthers opened the season by holding the Buccaneers and Lions to what still stand as their season lows in scoring. And while the Bears tallied 24 points, the defense gave up only a field goal in the second half after Chicago scored a pair of first-half touchdowns when given a very short field.

The Seahawks offense has struggled to find consistency away from home, and last year's 12-7 victory at Carolina to open the season set the tone for the type of year the Panthers' defense enjoyed. Sunday's game is without a doubt an opportunity for the defense to reestablish an edge that has been mostly missing of late.

Hi, I'm a fan from England, and me and my friends are really excited about the Carolina Panthers! We really want to watch some games of yours. Are they being broadcast on English television? Obviously England's version of American football is rugby, but that's played by wimps! – Liam in Basingstoke, England

While I won't second your comment about rugby players for the sake of my own safety, the Panthers welcome you with open arms. I understand that Sky Sports in the U.K. carries Thursday night NFL games (the Panthers host the Saints in Week 9 on Thursday night) and select Sunday games, but your best bet would be to go in with your buddies and purchase an NFL Game Pass. The subscription service allows folks in your neck of the woods (but, alas, not in the United States) to watch games live on their computer or mobile device.

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