Kony Ealy is in his third season with the Carolina Panthers, which means he’s in his third season playing with Luke Kuechly, who just might be the best defensive player in the world.
Kuechly, 25, is only eight months older than Ealy, but it’s clear that the 24-year-old looks up to him.
“Luke’s a different personality every day,” Ealy said on CBS Sports Radio’s The Doug Gottlieb Show. “You never know what you’re going to get out of him. But one thing I can say about him: He will do absolutely anything and everything he can to help you as a person or as an athlete. Whether that’s giving you good advice about life or really bringing the best out of you as an athlete, he’s going to do that. That’s if he’s going against you or if he’s on the same side of the ball with you.”
Kuechly, a three-time All Pro and 2013 NFL Defensive Player of the Year, is regularly among the league leaders in tackles. He also has 12 interceptions, five forced fumbles and three fumble recoveries in his brief yet brilliant career.
But the productive and clean-cut Kuechly has to have some flaws, right?
“I don’t think Luke has any flaws,” Ealy said. “Luke’s not human, man. I don’t think he has any flaws. Luke’s a great guy all the way around.”
Ealy could probably say the same about Kelvin Benjamin, who has 13 catches for 199 yards and three touchdowns in his first two games since returning from a torn ACL.
“Kelvin is a big target for us, as well as Greg Olsen,” Ealy said. “I’m just blessed that we have guys like that that can make plays and we have a lot of guys that can make plays like that. With Kelvin coming back, obviously he presents a different presence as his physicality takes over in the game as far as being an offensive guy. It’s going to magnify. It’s going to make us more explosive in this offensive system this season. You saw what we were able to do last year without him. Just imagine what we’re going to do with him.”
Carolina, which lost its season-opener in Denver, 21-20, responded with a 46-27 blowout win over the Niners this past weekend. The Panthers (1-1) host the Vikings (2-0) this Sunday at 1 p.m.
Minnesota will be without Adrian Peterson, who tore his meniscus in last Sunday’s win over the Packers. Peterson will have surgery and will likely miss three to four months.
“I hate to see that,” Ealy said. “I caught a glimpse of it on the news, but I hate to see a guy like that – a Hall of Famer, a great athlete and a guy I’ve grown up watching – I hate to see that.”
Ealy, though, knows the Vikings are still a formidable team even without Peterson.
“At the end of the day, it’s just like any other team,” he said. “This is a professional league. This is the NFL. It only takes a little bit for any team to gain one up on you. I respect them just as much as if they had Adrian Peterson for this week. That’s the way I got to look at it. I know that’s the way we’re going to (approach it) going into this week of preparation getting ready for those guys.”