On Wednesday I wrote about the Eagles running a 3-4 based on some comments from players and even Chip Kelly about the fact that players would be using the 2-gap technique. I wanted to add a few things to that discussion.
One point has to be emphasized. This is what is being taught right now. That doesn’t mean it is the long term plan. Bill Davis has talked a few times about when he and Mike Nolan got to SF and wanted to convert that defense from 4-3 to 3-4. They didn’t fully implement the system they wanted. They based what they did on the personnel they had. That changed over time. Just because we’re in the 3-4 now doesn’t mean we won’t shift to the 4-3 Under in a year or two.
Football teams have short term plans and long term plans. Andy Reid got here in 1999 and put in his offense. Think how different that looked in 1999 and 2002. If the right coach inherits the right players, he can be more aggressive with his schedule. Wade Phillips was able to get the Texans running the 4-3 Under right away. That defense returned a lot of players and had the right pieces. Clearly the Eagles had to add a slew of new guys. The entire secondary is new. The NT is new. One LB is new. And returning guys like Fletcher Cox, Ced Thornton, and Mychal Kendricks are just in their second season. You can’t be too aggressive with teaching them. Gotta take baby steps.
We don’t know what Chip Kelly or Bill Davis long term vision for the defense is. Kelly and Davis keep talking about a hybrid defense. We’ll see how that goes. Some of you have asked about Bill Belichick’s 4-3/3-4 combo. No way. Copying Belichick is fool’s gold. The man is a freak. He can teach anything. He knows how to make adjustments when part of what he does isn’t working. Please forget this idea immediately. Or sooner.
As to what Kelly means by his talk of 3 and 4-man fronts…I don’t know how to take him. He talks about playing 4-man fronts against passing teams. Is he simply referring to a 4-2-5 Nickel defense? That is common. All teams run 4-man fronts in some Nickel and Dime situations. That’s not my definition of hybrid at all.
Or maybe Kelly does mean that we’ll go 4-3 against some teams. All we can do is wait to find out.
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AC Viking had some questions on these type issues that I never addressed.
Will Curry still be effective when bulking up? Jerry Azzinaro coached him for one year at Marshall. Rick Minter was there for 2 years. If those guys approved the move to 5-tech DE (and bulking up), clearly they feel he can do it. If the Eagles had concerns with Curry, they could trade him. This draft isn’t loaded with elite pass rushers. Curry would have some value.
I’ve never thought of Curry as an explosive rusher. He is quick and can appear explosive when he times his get-off right, but he’s not a freaky good athlete or anything special. Let’s look at some notes from last April. Curry really stood out to me at the Senior Bowl. Here are some notes from that:
“Game - V Curry – RDE. Got under Glenn and moved him back a step on run play. Unblocked on WR screen. Flew off the edge and deflected the pass. Gift sack when Ta’Amu flushed QB to him. Good pressure on Weeden’s INT. Came off quickly and got under the LT. Moved him back, then went inside and hit the QB as he threw. McCants did a solid job of blocking him 1-on-1 a few times. Used an inside move to get to RB in the backfield. Good up and under move. Gift sack in the 3rd Qtr. Was blocked by RT. RG shoved him from the side, which knocked him off the block and QB just happened to drift to that area. Easy sack. Got into Sanders on run play and moved him backward, showing good strength. Uses hands/arms well. Physical player. Times his get-off really well. Hustled and tried to get in on tackle of Joe Adams, but got juked.”
“Day 3 - Vinny Curry — Very good day. Had success as an edge rusher. Explosive when he times his get-off just right. Moved inside to DT for some reps and absolutely killed the G’s he went up against. They had no answer for his quickness. Uses his hands well to shed blocks in some drills. Disruptive player who has looked good so far.”
Curry isn’t a Senior Bowl wonder. He was the C-USA Defensive Player of the Year. Curry racked up 11 sacks, 7 FFs, and 3 blocked kicks. He had more than 40 solo tackles each of the last 2 years, which shows good hustle. Curry finished his career with 26.5 sacks, 49 TFLs (amazing) and 10 FFs.
Curry played both RDE and LDE. Quick off the ball. Not explosive, but good. Uses his hands very well. Keeps blockers from getting into his body. Curry has a great motor. Will work relentlessly to get to the ball. Makes hustle plays when chasing the QB or on run plays. Has a good swim move. Will go inside at times to blockers can’t just sell out to stop his wide rushes. Other times Curry will mix in a spin move or even a bull rush. Not just a guy that flies off the edge over and over.
Plays smart. Understands how to set up pass rush moves. Shows good awareness when reading plays and/or chasing the ball.
Biggest weakness is anchoring vs the run. Lacks ideal lower body strength. Can get moved off the ball by some OTs and will really struggle when he’s taking on double teams. Does have good upper body strength. You see that in his ability to shed blocks and his 28 bench reps.
The player I’ve compared Curry to is Justin Smith. Curry came into the league, 6-3, 266. Smith came in at 6-4, 267. Both players had great motors. Both had strong upper bodies. Smith ran faster in his workout. He was just as productive in college, but played better competition and that’s one of the reasons he went Top 5 and Curry fell to the bottom of the 2nd.
Clearly I’m not saying Curry will be anywhere near as good as Smith. The point is that SF signed him away from Cincinnati and converted Smith to a 3-4 DE after he’d played in the 4-3 all of his career. Smith has the upper body strength, frame, physicality, and motor to be successful in the new role. Curry has those same attributes. That doesn’t mean that he will be successful in the new system, only that there is hope for him. The move is based in logic, not desperation.
Since Curry isn’t a pure speed guy, bulking up should not be a major issue. Take speed away from Dwight Freeney and he’s a completely different player. Curry’s motor is still his best attribute. That won’t change whether he is 266 or 286.
Here is a Curry video vs WVA from 2010. Marshall used a 3-man DL several times. They weren’t always 2-gapping, but you can see Curry doing some of what he might in his new role.
Will losing weight hurt Trent Cole? This is tougher to answer. Cole has never been a pure speed rusher. He’s used good speed combined with good strength to beat OTs. He is losing bulk. If Trent can maintain his strength, he should be okay. I trust Kelly and his new staff when it comes to workouts, conditioning, and nutrition. Still, we need to see Trent in action.
The sleeker look should help him when he’s playing in space. The one big advantage Trent will have when he covers these days is that he’ll be practicing it. In the past, Cole dropped back on zone blitzes here and there. He wasn’t coached up on coverage because he was a DE. Trent is now a LB/DE. He’ll get a lot more coverage reps in practice. We’ll see how this goes.
Is Dion Jordan special? Can he be an impact player? Jordan might not make it to pick #4. If he does, I’d be glad to have him. I think Jordan absolutely has big time potential. When is the last time the Eagles had a 6-6, 250 LB that could cover WRs and fly by OTs? Jordan isn’t a polished player. He needs to get stronger. He needs to fill out his frame. He needs to work on his pass rush skills. Can’t speed rush on every play in the NFL. If he puts everything together, Jordan could be an impact LB.
The Steelers have had a great 3-4 for 20 years. They have great OLBs, a stud NT, and an impact S almost every year. Can the Eagles find those guys in the draft? Not all this year. There are terrific prospects at each position, but it isn’t likely that the Eagles will land all the guys at once. The Steelers needed time to add pieces to their D.
Jordan would be an impact OLB. We have to see what Barwin, Graham, and Cole do.
Sopoaga is the NT. There are several guys we could draft, from the 2nd round to the 7th. There is no NT I’m in love with. Brandon Williams is the guy who fascinates me.
There are some very good Safeties available. Is there anyone like Troy Polamalu? That’s a brutally hard question. I do think Jonathan Cyprien has the best combination of cover skills, physicality, size, strength, and range. He can make plays at the LOS or 20 yards downfield. I just don’t know if Cyprien lasts to pick #35. I sure hope he does.
The key to remember in all of this is that we don’t know which players the Eagles will emphasize. The 5-tech DE could be Ziggy Ansaha (6-5, 271), Star Lotulelei (6-3, 311), William Gholston (6-6, 281), John Jenkins (6-4, 332), or Joe Kruger (6-6, 269). Those guys have different builds and skill sets. Who do the Eagles go for? What do they want?
The same is true at OLB, ILB, and NT. We know Chip prefers big guys, but we don’t know the skill set he’s looking for. He’s talked about the need for guys to be able to 2-gap, but that’s more about the current players. Does it apply long term as well? We’ll find out in a week.