Vinny Curry, SAM, and Draft Talk

Posted: February 10th, 2013 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 83 Comments »

I’ve been going nuts trying to figure out which player will take on which role in the new defense.  I’ve got 655321 theories and they are all highly flawed.  One interesting theory occurred to me last night.  Could Vinny Curry be the the SAM LB?  I was watching tape and doing research on draft prospects.  There are some guys to like, but you can’t be sure you’ll get a SAM.  You need to have a possible answer prior to the draft.

I’ve been trying to figure out how to project Trent Cole, Brandon Graham, and Curry.  You really would like all 3 guys on the field this year.  If Cole starts at the Predator spot, what do you do with the other 2 guys?  Graham would likely be a backup and situational rusher.  He doesn’t have the size or athleticism to be a SAM.  Brandon is 6013.  That is 6-1 3/8.  It looks like Bill Davis prefers OLBs that are in the 6-3 to 6-5 range. Graham was a good athlete prior to microfracture surgery, but at this point he’s more of a straight-ahead rusher than change-of-direction player.

With Cole and Graham at the Predator spots, Curry needs to get on the field somewhere.  What about SAM?  Sheil Kapadia cited Pro Football Focus stats in his article the other day and wrote that the OLB for Davis was rushing 70 percent of the time and dropping 30 percent.  Could Curry handle being in coverage 30 percent of the time?

Curry is 6-3, 266.  That is pretty good size.  The coaches could have him drop down to 255 and that would be close to an ideal build for a SAM.  Curry has minimal coverage experience.  He was a pass rusher at Marshall and last season with the Eagles.  He is a pretty good athlete.  Curry did the 3-cone drill in 6.90 at the Scouting Combine.  That was tied for 3rd among DL. He did 4.40 in the Short Shuttle.  That was down below 15th in the DL rankings.  Curry ran a 4.69 at his Pro Day, which is plenty of speed for SAM.

I don’t think Curry is ever going to be good in coverage.  You wonder if he could be good enough.  Go back to the stats.  He would rush about 70 percent of the time.  The reason you have him cover 30 percent of the snaps is to keep the offense off balance.  You don’t want them knowing who is rushing on every play.  You need the LB to be effective as a cover guy so that those plays when you do drop him back he can be functional.  You don’t expect him to shut down TEs or RBs.  Just stay close and make the tackle.  Get in the passing lanes and bother the QB when possible.  In order to do this the SAM needs speed, quickness, agility, and to be comfortable playing in space.   

Let’s take a look at some Vinny Curry videos.

Watching those videos you can see that Curry has good change-of-direction ability.  He’s very good on the move.  Makes a lot of hustle plays.  That’s big at LB.  You must be able to run and chase the ball. You see in the highlight video that Curry can read plays and move laterally to get the ball.  Again, that’s key at LB.

Here is one of EagleJake’s preseason videos.   Curry vs PIT.

You can’t see all that much in terms of projecting him to LB.  He does hustle and run well.  That’s about it.

The Eagles did sign Chris McCoy last week.  He’s 6-3, 261 and a LB/DE tweener from the CFL.  I’m sure he’s here as depth for SAM.

* * * * *

Now for some draft talk.

The 2 prospects who would be perfect SAMs for us are Barkevious Mingo and Dion Jordan.  The problem is that I don’t know either guy is worth #4 and I can’t realistically see either one being on the board for our 2nd round pick.

Mingo lists at 6-5, 240.  He isn’t the most physical player in the world, but is a great athlete.  He makes some moves that will take your breath away.  Some think his 4.5 sacks is a red flag.  How could such an athletic guy post such pedestrian numbers?  That is a legit question.  One thing I can say is that LSU mixed in mush-rushing this year.  This is something you do vs mobile QBs.  Rather than firing upfield out of control, you rush under control and try to keep the QB in the pocket.  You sacrifice sacks, but limit a QB’s ability to get outside the pocket and either run or throw on the run.  This worked great against Johnny Football.  Texas A&M only scored 19 points.

Jordan went to Oregon as a WR.  He is now 6-7, 243.  They realized a while ago that he needed to move and put him at LB/DE.  Jordan has good cover skills.  I’ve seen him stick with WRs 20 yards downfield.  He finished his career with 14.5 sacks, splitting time as a pass rusher with being a LB.

There are some other prospects to take a look at, but Jordan and Mingo are in a league of their own in terms of size, pass rush ability, and athleticism.

* * * * *

Misc Draft Talk

* Someone asked on Twitter if I could explain why some players are great in college, but are not considered good pro prospects.  You have to understand that college football sends about 350 guys a year to the NFL.  That’s from approx 200 colleges.  There are very few really good NFL prospects at each school.  College football is mainly played by guys who have little to no shot at the NFL.  Being a star in college isn’t that hard because you aren’t consistently facing great competition.

The NFL is the best of the best.  College is a step down.  High school is a step below that.  Just because you are a star in high school doesn’t mean you’ll be a star in college.  Just because you’re a star in college doesn’t mean that will be true in the NFL.  As the size, speed, skill, and overall level of talent goes up, it is harder to succeed.

* There was a report last week that the Eagles liked Syracuse QB Ryan Nassib.  Good player, not great.  I do not think he would be a target at pick #4.  I’d have no problem with Nassib in the 2nd round.  Nassib is a good athlete.  He’s not a runner per se, but is mobile.  He also throws well on the move.  Nassib has a good arm.  His deep ball needs work, though.  He is good on short and intermediate throws.  I could see him as a good fit for running Chip Kelly’s offense.  Nassib could give you the 5-yard runs to make some of the zone read stuff work.  He is a good passer.

Are the Eagles really interested?  Hard to say.  Reports like this have to be taken with a grain of salt.  Could be leaked by Nassib’s agent to make his player seem popular.  Could have been leaked by the Eagles to make teams not realize who the Eagles really like.  Or it might be legit.

* I really do like the CB and S class.  Not just up high either.  I hope the Eagles come away from this draft with at least 3 DBs.  There will be pro additions as well.  One guy a bit under the radar now is Cal CB Marc Anthony.  He’s 5-11, 191.   Can press and be physical or play off.  Impressed me at the Senior Bowl and when watching Cal.  Probably a mid-round pick.  Chip Kelly faced him for 4 years and probably has a good feel for how good of a player Anthony is or isn’t.  The Pac-12 has quite a few CB prospects.  Will be interesting to see if we take one.

* * * * *

David Syvertsen wrote about the ILBs in the draft.


83 Comments on “Vinny Curry, SAM, and Draft Talk”

  1. 1 damccomas said at 4:34 PM on February 10th, 2013:

    clockwork reference…nice.

  2. 2 TommyLawlor said at 6:10 PM on February 10th, 2013:

    Favorite film.

  3. 3 damccomas said at 8:25 PM on February 10th, 2013:

    mine too. my buddy in college named his “water pipe” 655321.

  4. 4 Iskar36 said at 5:32 PM on February 10th, 2013:

    So I agree that we want to see guys like Curry, Graham, and Cole all get on the field this year, but is there any thought to those three guys in a long-term sense. Cole is getting up there in age and may or may not have started declining significantly. If I recall correctly, Curry was mostly used as a RDE to backup Cole while Graham was primarily an LDE. Obviously, that was last year with ARs team so all of that can change, but is there any thought into Curry being developed as the backup Predator and eventual successor over Cole rather than Graham?

    From this article, it seems long term, Curry is only an OK fit for SAM, which to me suggests that eventually you will want to replace him. If he would be a better fit for the Predator role, wouldn’t you rather have him focus there to see if he can be developed into the future starter? That obviously leaves Graham in bad situation because as you pointed out, he would not be a good fit for SAM. I’m just curious where you would put these guys if you were starting from scratch and ignored filling in positions.

    One other thought I had is if indeed Cole, Graham, and Curry really all best fit the Predator position, would it make more sense to trade one of them (most likely Cole or Graham)? I would hate losing Cole, but he is on the decline based on last year and I think realistically, when switching from a 4-3 to more of a 3-4 look, you often have dead weight on a team that doesn’t fit well anywhere. Would it be better to try and get value for those players instead of trying to fit players in nonideal positions?

  5. 5 TommyLawlor said at 6:09 PM on February 10th, 2013:

    You could have Cole as Pred with Curry as backup. Then Graham is going to struggle to get on the field. Can play him at LDE in Nickel sets, but only when going 4-2-5. Far from ideal.

    Tricky part here is figuring out what Kelly/Davis want. What you see 2013 might not be the long term plan.

  6. 6 Iskar36 said at 6:11 PM on February 10th, 2013:

    I guess the point I am trying to make is, does it make sense to have Curry spend a year adjusting to a position that doesn’t make sense for him long term? Seems like you would waste his career that way.

  7. 7 Anders said at 6:13 PM on February 10th, 2013:

    Watch how the Ravens used Paul Kruger last year, that would be how we most likely would use Curry in that role.

  8. 8 TommyLawlor said at 6:59 PM on February 10th, 2013:

    Good comparison.

  9. 9 Anders said at 7:06 PM on February 10th, 2013:

    When projecting our D, I think the Ravens offer a great comparison tool.

  10. 10 Neil said at 6:53 PM on February 10th, 2013:

    I think there’s longterm value in seeing if Curry can be a versatile player. Even if we acquired a SAM with better cover skills after the coming season, he might get injured. And the point about him not getting experience at a position you think he’s going to end up playing, remember that we know exactly as much about Curry’s suitability to predator as SAM. For all we can predict, it’s just as likely experience at SAM might be a positive experience for him as predator like how playing DT helps DEs sometimes.

  11. 11 Iskar36 said at 8:47 PM on February 10th, 2013:

    I understand finding out whether or not Curry can be a more versatile player would be valuable, but I think it makes sense to start out with playing in your most suitable position (in theory). Based on Tommy’s description of how Curry would fit in as a SAM, I get the sense that he would most likely have potential as a serviceable starter, but wouldn’t be ideal. If he has a higher potential at predator (which I should point out that I am not sure is true… I’m just guessing), I would think it would make sense to put him there.

  12. 12 DanJ3645 said at 9:14 AM on February 11th, 2013:

    Given that the Pred player also needs to drop in coverage having Curry develop that skill, while gaining playing time should be a benefit.

  13. 13 shah8 said at 5:33 PM on February 10th, 2013:

    The sheer flatness of the physical talent level in this draft is probably going to make it difficult for the Eagles to move down some, because everyone wouldn’t mind moving down some until about the twelfth pick, well excepting those that have compelling positional needs.

  14. 14 TommyLawlor said at 6:05 PM on February 10th, 2013:

    All it takes is one team coveting one player.

  15. 15 Anders said at 5:56 PM on February 10th, 2013:

    I know guys like Paul Kruger or Anthony Spencer will be the two most sought after OLB’s in FA. I thought that a guy like William Hayes might be an interesting pick up there should be cheaper than the other guys.

  16. 16 TommyLawlor said at 6:05 PM on February 10th, 2013:

    He’s a pure DE as far as I know. And goes about 270-275. Not sure he would make sense.

    Kruger and Spencer are ideal, but pricey targets.

  17. 17 Anders said at 6:12 PM on February 10th, 2013:

    I know he played DE for the Rams, but the only quick scouting report I could find on him had him listed as OLB coming out, thats why I thought I would ask.

  18. 18 austinfan said at 10:10 PM on February 10th, 2013:

    Spencer would seem like a better bet at SLB.

    I have a feeling Kruger is the next Audilius Thomas, a product of the Raven scheme. To me he’s a DE pretending to play SOLB, and a good player who’s about to get paid like a great player.

  19. 19 Daniel said at 6:01 PM on February 10th, 2013:

    “Barkevious Mingo” I hope we draft him just so I can say that name on Sundays.

  20. 20 TommyLawlor said at 6:58 PM on February 10th, 2013:

    It is fun.

  21. 21 D3Keith said at 6:58 PM on February 10th, 2013:

    That and Munchie Legeaux are my two favorite college football names of the past five years.

  22. 22 bdbd20 said at 7:50 PM on February 10th, 2013:

    Agreed. Mingo + Baccari Rambo would be awesome.

  23. 23 T_S_O_P said at 3:19 AM on February 11th, 2013:

    Love Mingo. How about Accardi Taylor? He scores on name and college, coming from Tommie’s favourite School of Mines.

  24. 24 Cliff said at 6:19 PM on February 10th, 2013:

    Did you say Dion Jordan is six-foot-SEVEN. Holy crap. I guess if Chip Kelly likes tall OLB, Jordan might fit that description.

  25. 25 DaO_Z said at 7:57 PM on February 10th, 2013:

    he already fits that description, he went to Oregon….

  26. 26 Arby1 said at 11:39 PM on February 10th, 2013:

    I think Jordan is a real strong possibility if we drop back 4 or 5 spots on draft day.

  27. 27 Phils Goodman said at 12:11 AM on February 11th, 2013:

    Apparently OLB is a 70/30 rush/coverage proposition. I’d rather hone in on someone who excels at the 70 part rather than the 30.

  28. 28 Baloophi said at 6:20 PM on February 10th, 2013:

    Interesting thought on Curry at OLB. I’m leery of asking players to switch to new positions, though I guess DE to OLB is far more common – and as you say, it’s only 30% of the time that it’s something new. One thing we certainly don’t know is whether he has any coverage instincts… he can have the speed and 3-cone time, etc., but if he’s lost in space then it does him no good (SEE Sims, Ernie).

    If we’re launching into the draft talk, I’d like to officially offer up seats on the Philip Lutzenkirchen bandwagon (TE – Auburn). We’ll he be a late round / UFA and draw little attention in the pre-draft hullabaloo? Yes. Does he have unimpressive stats and game averages? Yes. Is it difficult to spell Lutzenkirchen and will the equipment manager experience heart palpitations attempting to squeeze said name on his jersey? Yes. BUT, he has great hands, knows how to create spacing, and plays through injury. Plus, he had two long receptions against Oregon in the 2010 championship game… so even if he’s the complete opposite of what Chip Kelly wants in a TE, maybe there’s a chance…

  29. 29 TommyLawlor said at 6:58 PM on February 10th, 2013:

    I love when Chris Fowler says his name. Seems like Kelly will add a TE. Maybe Lutzenkirchen will be the guy.

  30. 30 A_T_G said at 6:26 PM on February 10th, 2013:

    To make sure I am picturing this correctly, from the QB’s perspective, the predator is on his left? With Kendrick’s behind and inside him, the DeMeco, and the SAM on the right? Then the under tackle, Cox, in front of Kendricks?

    In other words, if the formatting works, is this what I should be picturing:


  31. 31 Anders said at 6:48 PM on February 10th, 2013:

    yes thats right, tho Cox might be better as the SDE

  32. 32 TommyLawlor said at 6:55 PM on February 10th, 2013:

    That’s the understanding.

    And Anders is right that Cox could be the 3-tech DT or 5-tech DE. Not sure what’s best for him.

  33. 33 phillychuck said at 7:09 PM on February 10th, 2013:

    I think the picture is correct, but doesn’t the line reverse if the TE is on the other side of the formation?

  34. 34 Anders said at 7:14 PM on February 10th, 2013:

    It does, thats why most defensive coordinators want both sides to be equal. So ideally both the SLB and the predator can both rush the pass and drop back in coverage

  35. 35 A_T_G said at 7:29 PM on February 10th, 2013:

    I thought the idea was that we don’t switch when the TE moves anymore. What would change, the players or their roles? Would we ask the predator and the SLB to switch roles but stay on their sides? In that case, we need two guys that can rush and cover. Since Kendricks has experience at the old version of SAM, couldn’t he rotate to the TE at the snap and have the other two LBs shift with him?

  36. 36 Anders said at 8:52 PM on February 10th, 2013:

    The only difference between the SLB and the predator is that the SLB needs to be a better cover guy. You are right that when we blitz both OLBs Kendricks or a safety is responsible for covering the TE.

  37. 37 phillychuck said at 10:21 PM on February 10th, 2013:

    One more question–how much do the NT and 3-tech and 5-tech lineman usually rotate? Do 4-3 under teams try to keep them fresh?

  38. 38 Alan said at 6:55 PM on February 10th, 2013:

    Got to get Graham on the field. He was arguably our best defensive player the last half of the year. It just doesn’t make sense to me to try to upgrade him. I see him as similar to Lamar woodley in a 3-4. Plus he seemed to like the idea of switching.

  39. 39 TommyLawlor said at 7:00 PM on February 10th, 2013:

    I also want Graham on the field.

  40. 40 Mike Flick said at 8:12 PM on February 10th, 2013:

    I want to want Graham on the field. Not there yet.

  41. 41 phillychuck said at 10:05 PM on February 10th, 2013:

    Graham at predator, Cole in the nickel and dime as pass-rusher. Gives Cole about 50% of game snaps, which should keep him productive at his age. Curry to compete at SLB. Don’t know what to do with Phillip Hunt, who has never really gotten a full chance. Looked great in pre-season last year, of course.

  42. 42 GGeagle said at 2:02 PM on February 13th, 2013:

    Tom, love y work. Question: why didn’t you list Jarvis jones with Dion and Mingo? Especially now that his spinal condition is said to be a non issue? everyone raves about his playmaking ability, and knack for forcing turnovers, but his coverage ability is equally impressive..and with today’s pass catching TEs, seeing Witten twice a year, Jarvis ability to run with TE could be extremely valuable to us. What are your thoughts on Jarvis?

    Dion. I would also LOVE to have. I wonder if he can be had, trading back to 11, allowing the chargers to come up to 4 and get their OT? I’m assuming compensation would look something like: #’s 4 and 101 to the chargers for 11,45,78? That would give us picks: 11(Dion), 35(truant or Cyprien), 45(Brandon Williams NT), 69 Poyer or alford(cb), 75(safety or OT)

  43. 43 Guest said at 2:07 PM on February 13th, 2013:

    graham(pred..Cox..Brandon Will(nt)..Cullen/Thort.Jarvis/dion

  44. 44 ICDogg said at 6:58 PM on February 10th, 2013:

    What’s your opinion of “Dawg Bones” Jarvis Jones? Looks great to me on YouTube, not that I’m any expert.

  45. 45 TommyLawlor said at 7:00 PM on February 10th, 2013:

    Covered him here.

    Not sure if Eagles would be interested or not.

  46. 46 holeplug said at 7:23 PM on February 10th, 2013:

    He has spinal stenosis so too risky at #4. Chargers tackle Marcus McNeil had to retire at 28 with the same condition.

  47. 47 nopain23 said at 7:17 PM on February 10th, 2013:

    Hey T

    you mentioned in the last post that our NT does not need to be a guy who eats up blocks. So who do you see as potential NT targets in the draft? Also,could B.Werner be a target for rush OLB for the eagles?

  48. 48 TommyLawlor said at 8:14 PM on February 10th, 2013:

    Werner seems more like a DE than LB. Doesn’t have a good motor. Will watch tape to see about him as OLB possibility. Could be pure rush LB, but don’t think we’re looking for that.

    Lots of NTs. Will cover that in a separate post.

  49. 49 D-von said at 7:43 PM on February 10th, 2013:

    What about Ezekiel Ansah. I like him better than Jordan or Mingo

  50. 50 TommyLawlor said at 8:06 PM on February 10th, 2013:

    I do think he could play SAM. Great athlete.

  51. 51 Phils Goodman said at 8:05 PM on February 10th, 2013:

    Vinny Curry chased down TY Hilton in the Beef O’ Brady Bowl.

    Jordan is a very questionable pass-rusher. He doesn’t show the ability to defeat blocks or use power. He is purely a space player so far.

  52. 52 Mike Flick said at 8:08 PM on February 10th, 2013:

    The thing the Eagles will do, is sign someone to fill in the holes. That way they will be free to draft the BPA.

    It is the big lesson learned over the past couple years. So I expect them to sign a NT, SLB, CB + S before the draft.

  53. 53 pjxii said at 8:23 PM on February 10th, 2013:

    When does the FA signing period begin, anyway?

  54. 54 PK_NZ said at 8:14 PM on February 10th, 2013:

    Yes, all Eagles fans should pray together that one of the top 4 safties drops to our 2nd round pick… Vacarro, Elam, Reid, Cyprien…

  55. 55 Phils Goodman said at 8:39 PM on February 10th, 2013:

    Those might not be the top 4 safeties. Philip Thomas, JJ Wilcox and Tony Jefferson are in this class too. I know safety is a huge position of need, but if everyone left is of similar ability the Eagles can afford to wait and will get good value in an extremely deep class.

  56. 56 CalSFro said at 8:31 PM on February 10th, 2013:

    Tommy, you say that Graham is only a “straight ahead rusher at this point”, albeit in reference to the SAM spot. How then, do you view Cole? Because I sure didn’t see him making any plays via explosive cuts or lateral movement the last few years…

    I guess my overriding thought is that if Graham’s not good enough or ideally suited to be the starting Predator in this defense, then to my eyes Cole sure as heck isn’t either.

  57. 57 D3FB said at 8:32 PM on February 10th, 2013:

    Graham and Cole are both fine at the Predator. That play rushes on like 97% of all snaps. Cole probably dropped in coverage more than that during McDermott era.

  58. 58 CalSFro said at 8:45 PM on February 10th, 2013:

    The Predator rushes 94% of the time. I get that. But that 6% of coverage is still important. And if the last couple years are any indication, Cole looks like he’s slowing down. Effort guys like Cole and DeMeco, who initially make it in the league because of their motor and smarts historically drop off precipitously when the end nears because as they age their limited physical tools become even more limited and their effort can’t make up for it.

    I mean honestly, I know we’re all Eagles fans and so we want to see things positively. But guys like Cole and DeMeco are limited athletically. It’s a fact. They’ve been good to really good players in this league, but they’re limited. DeMeco can’t really make coverage plays that require him to turn and run anymore and Trent had his worst year as a pro last season. Excuses (myriad though they may be) aside, I just wanted an honest assessment of Cole at this point because I personally don’t think he should be starting anymore.

    Plus it’s a brand new defense with brand new coaches. Saying anyone other than Fletcher Cox will be “fine” at any spot, especially one that’s different from what they did previously, is extremely premature.

  59. 59 ACViking said at 9:22 PM on February 10th, 2013:

    Re: Predator / 94% draft-rush figure

    If the opposing offense runs 65 plays on offense, then Predator will not be rushing on a total of 4 plays.

    One of those could be the game-breaker. But the odds are against it.

  60. 60 CalSFro said at 11:26 AM on February 11th, 2013:

    I love the Eagles. I want them to win. And as we’ve seen time and time again, a couple plays here and there can end up deciding a game. And if we see Trent Cole in coverage on David Wilson late next season (even if it’s only one of four plays that that happens), you can bet a lot of money Eli Manning will exploit that matchup at every opportunity, and that play has a chance to go for a decent chunk of yardage or more.

    We’re in transition so there is going to be some less than ideal situations for some players, and there are spots that are far more pressing in terms of the allocation of resources than this one. But you don’t win in this league with an acceptance of “good enough” or “Ok”. And it feels like that’s what’s going on here. People want to gloss over that position because it makes them feel more comfortable about the defenses situation, and they don’t have to see Trent Cole, one of the best (and my personal favorite) Eagles of the last decade, either traded or relegated to a back up role.

    Like I said, now is the time for hard truths about this roster.

  61. 61 Iskar36 said at 10:04 PM on February 10th, 2013:

    Just curious, where are you getting the 94% statistic?

  62. 62 CalSFro said at 11:13 AM on February 11th, 2013:

    Sheil’s article that Tommy linked to.

  63. 63 eagles2zc said at 9:05 PM on February 10th, 2013:

    Got to say Geno Smith look impressive in that first vid. I can see why Chiefs fans are clamoring for him

  64. 64 D3FB said at 12:27 AM on February 11th, 2013:

    I would seriously hope WVU’s QB would look impressive against Marshall given the type of offense they run.

  65. 65 Phils Goodman said at 1:18 AM on February 11th, 2013:

    I may start clamoring for him too if the Chiefs take Joeckel #1.

  66. 66 ACViking said at 9:07 PM on February 10th, 2013:

    Re: Vinny Curry — LOLB or the “Predator”? / Eagles “flexible” 2012 draftees

    Will the Eagles be patient with V-Curry or demand immediate production?


    Since the mid-1990s the Steelers have been drafting *undersized* college DEs — with similar measurables to Vinny Curry. Although the Steelers usually looked for guys at least a little taller and a bit lighter. (Usually, not always.)

    For example . . . in 1996, the Steelers 7th Rd pick was used on an undersized DE from Arkansas State named Carlos Emmons, listed at 6’5″ 255″. The next year, in the 1997 draft, the Steelers used their 3rd Rd pick on Ohio State DE Mike Vrabel, listed at 6’4 261 lbs.

    In those years, the Steelers had veteran OLBs Greg Lloyd and Jason Gildon on board. So both a Emmons and Vrabel were given some time to develop at OLB.

    In 1998, at the Steelers’ training — with Greg Lloyd having been cut loose — the Steelers pitted Emmons against Vrabel to fill the ROLB position held by Lloyd. Emmons won.

    In the 1999 draft, the Steelers selected Colorado State DE Joey Porter, then promptly stuck him on the bench — as they did with Emmons and Vrabel — to learn how to play OLB in the Steelers’ 3-4 defense.

    In the 2000 draft, the Steelers again reached for an undersized Colorado State DE. This time it was 6’4 245 lb Clark Haggans in Rd 5.

    A month before that 2000 draft, the Steelers let OLB Carlos Emmons leave in free agency after his rookie contract expired — and after a 6-sack season, no less.

    To fill Emmons’ spot, Pittsburgh plugged in 2nd-year player Joey Porter after he, like Emmons, beat-out Vrabel in training camp. (The Eagles signed Emmons before the 2000 draft, and he spent the next 4 season shutting down TEs for Jim Johnson — something no Eagles LB or Safety has been able to do since.)

    After the 2000 season, the Steelers let Vrabel leave when his rookie contract expired and after having never started a single game for the Steelers. (Vrabel of course signed on with the Patriots as a free agent, became a starting OLB in New England’s 3-4 — as well as a designated goal-line TD receiver — and won 3 SBs in 4 seasons, played in another in 2007, and also in the 2006 AFC title game.)

    In 2004, the Steelers finally put Clark Haggans into the starting lineup at OLB. Haggans replaced 10-year veteran Jason Gildon, who’d started for 8 seasons at OLB for the Steelers — after having spent 2 seasons on the bench following his 3rd-Rd selection from Oklahoma State, where he’d had a stellar college career playing DEFENSIVE END.

    In the 2007 draft, the Steelers selected — in Rd 2 — a DE from Michigan: 6’2 266 lb Lamar Woodley. After a year on the bench, Woodley became a starter at OLB for the Steelers . . . and ran up sack totals of 11.5, 13.5, 10.0, and 9.0 in his first four years in the starting lineup.

    Woodley is just about the same size as B-Graham.

    I suspect T-Law’s readers remember that in the lead-up to the 2010 draft, Mike Mayock projected Graham as a Woodley-type — an undersized DE who’d move to rush-OLB. Didn’t happen once the Eagles grabbed him.

    So . . . why all the Steelers’ history?

    The common denominator for all those very good to great Steelers OLBs is that they were all DEs in college, considered on the small side for DE in the NFL, and spent time on the bench after getting drafted to learn their new job.

    Vinny Curry just about fits the profile of the “undersized” college DE whom the Steelers routinely drafted: about an inch short and 10 pound too heavy. Graham’s close, but only if Woodley’s the comparator. (Knee issue aside for now.)

    When mini-camp 2013 hits, will Vinny Curry be ready to play LOLB for the Eagles? Doubtful. He’s never played in space before.

    Would Graham be ready, assuming his knee’s not a problem? Doubtful, as well, for the same reason (again, knee aside).

    How ’bout Curry at ROLB or “The Predator”? Or Graham switching sides to play “The Predator”? That scenario for both players makes far more sense than trying to shoehorn either Curry or Graham into the LOLB role in 2013, right?


    But if the Eagles are going to keep Trent Cole as the Predator (unless he proves he’s absolutely lost it), with Graham as his cohort, then Curry’s headed toward a seat in the press-box an an inactive.

    So Coles’ functional and Graham’s at ROLB too, which means Curry’s not going to play much if at all anyway . . . why not give Curry another season on the sideline to learn how to play LOLB? (I’m assuming, because — as T-Law wrote — Graham’s ticketed for the Predator position.)

    The Steelers were patient with their young college DEs to prepare them to be impact OLBs. And so what if Curry doesn’t play for two seasons. Emmons did. Haggans did. Vrabel did (though he found his success in New England).

    Find a vet to fill the ROLB for one year. It’s unlikely the Eagles are winning the SB next year and the guy the Eagles bring in could help school Curry.

    (Chris Gocong . . . are you available for a 1-year return engagement?)

    While the Birds are at it, maybe let Graham get some time at LOLB in practice. Perhaps the knee holds up. If not, keep him over at Predator.

    Likewise, let Curry play some at Predator to get on the field. Especially if Cole’s slowing down.


    What about playing Curry, or possibly Graham, at LOLB without the year to prepare? Maybe.

    But that seems like a bridge too far. Ideally I think the Eagles would be better served to build Curry’s confidence. And draft a kid too. But given them time to learn.


    Roseman’s talked about how his 2012 draft class was intentionally scheme-versatile.

    He mentions Fletcher Cox . . . which, to be fair to the fans, seems more than a bit self-serving at this point. Cox is versatile. But I’d be flabbergasted if the subject of him being a potentially great 3-4 or hybrid 4-3 DT ever came up in the run-up to the 2012 draft. Why on earth would it?

    Same with Kendricks. I’m glad he can slide back inside in the new defense. But we never heard anyone, including Roseman, talk about his versatility except as a SSLB after the draft,

    Vinny Curry . . . not word one about him being a stand-up rush OLB.

    Boykin? Strictly a slot corner. Sure he’d fit in any scheme. What slot corner wouldn’t.

    I’m not saying Roseman’s vertically blowing smoke. But I think he’s spinning the picks from last season.

    When I hear Roseman talk about Curry as a potential LOLB in the new scheme, then I’ll buy in to his pitch that, when he picked these players, he was doing it with the foresight that Reid could be fired and a new coach would want to play a 3-4 defense.

  67. 67 austinfan said at 10:08 PM on February 10th, 2013:

    Cox is a great athlete with the combination of size and agility to play multiple positions in different schemes, wouldn’t use him as a NT because he lacks the leg power to anchor, but he could play LDE, “5” or “3”, but I’d use him at the “3” where he could use his athleticism and long arms to wreck havoc.

    Curry was tried at LB at the Senior Bowl and impressed scouts. He ran a 4.73 at 266 lbs, probably could be a bit faster at 256 lbs. You’re right that he’d probably would need a year to learn how to play SLB, but is the best suited of anyone currently on the roster to play that spot. He’s one of those guys who could bulk up to 276 lbs to play LDE, but that’s not in the cards.

    Can’t see Graham at SLB, he’s lost some agility since his injury, lacks height and is best suited for the predator spot. Cole may start, but at this point in his career he shouldn’t be an every down player, so having them split time at the predator, then moving Graham to LDE in a 4-2-5 on passing downs would allow both players to get plenty of PT.

    I don’t think Roseman was blowing smoke, he knew that if Reid didn’t go deep into the playoffs he was blowing up the roster and wouldn’t know until February who the next HC would be. Kendricks for example could play ILB or WLB (SLB was more a matter of desperation). Boykin however is pretty much a slot CB, which is why he was a 4th rd pick.

  68. 68 BobSmith77 said at 12:19 AM on February 11th, 2013:

    Great post although I think Roseman is largely full of it that he drafted players specifically in mind that there was a strong chance the Eagles would play in a 3-4 scheme in 2013.

  69. 69 Wayne said at 9:42 PM on February 10th, 2013:

    I know we already have a logjam at the predator spot but what do you think of damontre Moore? He played the joker for a&m before they moved to the 4-3 and had a productive year. Would he be redundant in the predator role or is he athletic enough to hold up in coverage as the SAM?

  70. 70 Phils Goodman said at 11:32 PM on February 10th, 2013:

    He played OLB fantastically at A&M until he was moved to DE this year.

  71. 71 Patrick said at 11:39 PM on February 10th, 2013:

    Tommy, can you write some more regarding the pros and cons of having a right and left side of the defense, opposed to a strong and weak side. I understand that having right/left gives you unpredictability, but to me its seems like a total disregard of player strengths. If you have an impact pass rusher, you want to utilize him as a pass rusher. I understand that a predator go 3-4 LB sometimes have to cover, but i find it amazingly stupid that we let the offense have a say in whether its Trent Cole rushing and a SAM covering, or the other way around. Seems like an Andy Reid kind of thing, where he got so caught up in the perfect play that he forgot his players the majority of the time. When you have 3rd and short, dont throw to a DT being subbed in as a wildcat QB, give the ball to LeSean McCoy. Likewise, on 3rd and long, don’t drop your best pass rusher in coverage, send that guy after the QB. Again, once in a while you have to throw a curveball, i understand, but as a general idea, why not let the guys do what they do best,

    I am however warming up to Bill Davis. Im still not sold on him leading the defense, but i kinda like his system and I from what I read he seems like a good teacher, he is just not the guy I wanted running the show under our offensively minded HC. I have to admit though, the rest of the staff have got me pretty exited. Lots of good coaches from all kind of coaching trees, systems, college/NFL experience. Im actually really looking forward to see what Kelly and Shurmur can combine the offense into.

  72. 72 SteveH said at 1:27 AM on February 11th, 2013:

    I am really skeptical of Cole, Graham or Curry excelling in our new 3-4 defense. You can downplay the need for a nose tackle in modern 3-4 alignments but you still need some, and preferably a good one. I think we’re going to be looking at a lot of new faces at the OLB (DE in our old defense) and DT position over the next couple of years. I’m really not a huge fan of this move, lots of resources are going to be spent retooling this front seven that could be spent on areas of much higher need. Lets hope we really hit it out of the park with the upcoming draft.

  73. 73 planetx1971 said at 3:13 AM on February 11th, 2013:

    I was just perusing an article by Phil Sheridan that referred to the Davis hiring “sets the bar very very low” and referred to it also was a “major roll of the dice ” I admit thinking of it as Chip playing Blacckjack and taking a hit on 20. I went from so high to so low so quickly that I can only imagine its what being bi-polar must feel like melodramatic? ABSOLUTELY. So I implore the likes of people like AC Viking, Tommy or any likeminded people on here to give me rational explanations or theories as to why I shouldn’t panic that our “D” won’t be the butt of NFL jokes for the next few seasons. ANYONE???

  74. 74 austinfan said at 8:01 AM on February 11th, 2013:

    Would you have been happy with Ray Horton?

    Davis’ defense in 2009 was as good or better than Horton’s defenses in 2011-12. They fell off in 2010 when Okeafor, Dansby and Rolle left, and they were working in a bunch of young players and retreads like Porter. Would they have bounced back under Davis had he stayed?

    It’s hard to judge DCs without an extended history, Jerry Gray had top defenses in his past and a horrid defense last year in Tennessee. Fangio has coached some of the worst defenses in the league at various stops, and also top 5 defenses.

    Davis never had a stud pass rusher in Zona, Okeafor, Porter, Haggans?
    Last year, you could see the Seattle defense deflate without Clemons.
    It’s hard to separate the DC from his personnel.

    Does that mean Davis is a good DC? Who knows?
    He’ll install his scheme, Howie will get the players for that scheme, if Davis can’t get them to mesh and improve over the next couple years, they’ll bring in another DC to make it work.

  75. 75 planetx1971 said at 10:32 AM on February 11th, 2013:

    Thank you VERY much Austinfan for taking a little time to throw a bit of literary cold water in my face as it were. I feel a bit better. I just want to explain my paranoia and negativity (even more than most Iggle fans)
    Igrew up in southern PA. and I am a proud if ununhealthily obsessed 3rd generation Eagles fan. But at the end of h.s my pop took a job EAY up here im the heart of “Patriot country ” . Lemme tell you, Crygirl fans have NOTHING on these loudmouths! They are RIGHT THERE to criticize every move they make
    O have friends that ate Cowboy

  76. 76 planetx1971 said at 11:31 AM on February 11th, 2013:

    I could NOY edit that last line! The gist was

  77. 77 phillyfan1987 said at 9:04 AM on February 11th, 2013:

    Pros: if
    the 4-3 Under is the base defense the whole defense may not have to be
    overhauled. The position coaches use to be DC’s for colleges and are now
    position coaches at there expertise areas so not only will they be able
    to see the big picture as far as schemeing because of exp. being in
    charge of the defense, but will also be one on one with their position
    and the players will get great teaching on what exactly they need to do
    better explaining how theyre smaller roles fit in the major
    scheme.Lastly with the 4-3 under the only major needs are NT,OLB, and S
    as the LBs will take pressure off the CB’s in run coverage. Maybe we can
    pick up Sean Smith from miami and keep DRC.Cons: Bill Davis hasnt spent
    enough time with one unit or one stable roster over a two year span to
    really see if the problem was him or the talent he had. Bill Davis stats
    are not good other than his 2009 season ( which can be argued with
    losing Karlos dansby, ROlle and with Kurt Warner retired and no good QB
    the defense was on the field more often=fatigue and more opportunities
    for the offense to gain points and yards which could have gassed up
    stats).Lastly, if Davis fails we will be in search for a DC next year
    and it would be the 5 DC change since 2008 (Johnson,mcdermott,juan
    castillo, todd bowles, and Davis) players having to work with so many
    different coordinators and being in flux is probably what has caused the
    inconsistancy, the miscommunication, the fights and under the bus
    throwing. …in conclusion we dont have to have a GREAT DEFENSE to win
    just a competent one. Anyone know who MAtt Patricia is…….Patriots DC
    probably not a sexy pick or familiar name and probably didnt give their
    fans excitement but all they had to do was have the right pieces and
    competent coaching and they are back where they are every year
    championship game. Patriots were 18 in pts/gm, 32nd in passing yards, 7th in rushing yards, and 2nd in TO. The reason I mentioned the patriots is because I expect us to have a Juggernaut Offense in the years to come, we have a hybrid defense and like us their defense hasnt been all that great, the offense has been carrying them until this season. I mean the offense still carries them but they have a competent Defense who creates turnovers, stops the run and makes teams keep up passing with them. Davis stats do show his TO’s increased each season and his teams were good tacklers for the most part, with good linebacker play, good pass rush ability some people not afraid to tackle and turnovers like Davis teams produced we can be a good defense. I want to return to the scary D we use to have but even if that doesnt happen being good is good enough if we can take a couple pages from the patriots. Another reason I compare it is I think with Kelly’s Offensive genius if it can translate we can be close to the partiots as far as potential of our offense and defense. Just thinking out loud

  78. 78 phillyfan1987 said at 11:24 AM on February 11th, 2013:

    Question, people are speculating VIck may stay… con: will be 34, struggled past two seasons…..but how much of that was AR and MM play calling/60 passes a game and offense predictability versus Vick decline? the reason i bring this up is a while back you did a his fault/not his fault segment on his turnovers and bleeding green just did the same thing. From wha I THINK I know about CHIP KELLY.. we will probably be a run first offense, not as much as Oregon was but probably more than the eagles have been, if we are considered run first doesnt that help VICK because he is not the star of the offense, he manages the game like a more athletic Alex smith and still can strike with his big arm or run for 5-10 yard… if nothing else i expect a balanced offense to keep the offense honest. Also if we get a big receiver or if Riley or Marvin start to excel and vick takes a pay cut of 7 mil, he still has a chance to start and we may not lose a beat? I know everyone is ready for vick to leave but there is no fit for vick as far as other teams, the OL will be back, foles still needs some time to develop and he is probably not the QB chip wants. Also EJ may be gone by 3rd depending on how he does at the combine and the potential for teams to overdraft once the first qb comes off the board. Lets see if bill lazor and Pat can help VIck with his mechanics and then see if Kelly gives him a balanced or run first offense that we can utilize his talents in. VICK doesnt have to be superman just a Game manager with the ability to pose a run threat.

  79. 79 phillyfan1987 said at 11:25 AM on February 11th, 2013:

    its like what Randell Cunningham would have been if he didnt have to do it all…..two problems though.. one im not sure vick is a read option guy… but I think KELLY can dumb it down if he helps Vick by giving him his break downs and hot reads.. Kelly can maybe teach better letting him know if there is eight in the box quick pass or draw them in for the screen and stuff like that.

  80. 80 ACViking said at 11:56 AM on February 11th, 2013:

    My only question is, would the Eagles be better served — if Kelly plans to move Curry to LOLB — to let him sit on the bench and learn to play in space. Then next year plug him in.

    As for Fletcher Cox . . . I’ve written repeatedly he looks like he could be the next Richard Seymour — which would let the Eagles pretty much do anything they want with him on defense in terms of creativity.

  81. 81 ACViking said at 12:07 PM on February 11th, 2013:

    Vick gets 1-year deal. Hmm.

    What to make of that?

  82. 82 Skeptic_Eagle said at 12:46 PM on February 11th, 2013:

    It’s very hard to project Curry to the SAM without ever seeing him in coverage. They knew he could rush the passer, and that’s what they drafted him for. His ability in coverage is a total X factor. A lot of the front 7 responsibility is going to be determined by the coverage behind it. Maybe you can scheme a way to just have Curry responsible for the flats, or for short hook zones, if you feel those are his limitations. It’s a bit odd that after years of drafting shorter, lighter guys to play DE, the Eagles drafted a DE with decent length and bulk, and now might ask him to slim down and sink in coverage.

    If you look at KJ Wright as the standard, Curry’s got a hell of a role to fill. Wright is silky smooth in coverage and plays the run & rushes the passer almost as adeptly. He played the SAM position at Mississippi State, so the Seahawks knew exactly what they were getting. I think KJ Wright drops in coverage more than 30% of the time, so maybe that’s not a 1-to-1 comparison.

    I’m not a huge fan of Cole as the Predator (or Leo), but I’d be willing to let he & Graham battle it out for the spot. I’d be disappointed if Graham couldn’t win that battle, at this point. He certainly has not proven to be the colossal bust some feared he was, but losing a starting gig to an aging guy with declining returns would be bad news for a former first rounder with limited pro impact.

    Agree with you on Dion Jordan. He would be perfect for the SAM role–he’s amazing in coverage, and has that long body that Kelly seems to want. Definite first round talent though, and I think I’d rather see the Eagles stand pat and take Star, or move back and take one of the safeties in the mid-first. Mingo, I see as a pure passrusher. I didn’t see him mirror in space or display a great feel for coverage. He’d be a better fit for the Predator/Leo role, IMO.

  83. 83 Phils Goodman said at 7:31 PM on February 25th, 2013:

    Re: Dion Jordan at #4

    I am not crazy about this idea. Sheil’s study of Billy Davis’ defense found that the SAM position encompassed about 70% rushing and 30% coverage. Jordan excels at 30% of the job, but the pass-rushing aspect asks you to put faith in a ton of projection. While his build and movement make you salivate at his potential, Jordan’s current pass-rush skills lag far behind at present. He doesn’t show ability to beat blockers inside, set anyone up with moves or convert speed to power. He is a one trick pony who tries to beat his guy to the edge every time and gets all of his pressure moving in space.

    If Jordan develops his pass-rushing extensively, he is a special, versatile player. If he doesn’t, his ability to line up in the slot amounts to little more than a novelty for an NFL player. The problem with drafting him at #4 is that you are relying in him doing an awful lot of improving in areas where he has not yet even shown signs of aptitude. Risking so much on athletic upside would not be advised with the fourth selection.

    I believe you felt similarly about Jordan a couple weeks ago. I would be surprised if Jordan’s combine performance should change his evaluation much, since it was not difficult to anticipate him shining there.