Vinny Curry was supposed to be a perfect fit for the Wide 9, but Jim Washburn loved his veteran players and used Darryl Tapp instead of Curry for most of 2012. That was frustrating for Curry and most of Eagles Nation. No offense to Tapp, who is a hard-working vet, but Curry was bigger, faster and more talented.
Then came Chip Kelly, Bill Davis and the 3-4. I assumed Curry would be an OLB, but that didn’t happen. They had him play DE…in a 2-gap scheme. That’s like handing me a Whopper and asking me to ditch the bun and meat and just eat the lettuce, pickles, onions, and tomatoes. Crazy.
The results weren’t good early on. Curry didn’t do what he was supposed to. His instincts led him to take chances and try to make plays. That isn’t part of 2-gapping. His punishment was to be inactive for the first couple of regular season games. The coaches then put him on the field in pass rushing situations after that and Curry delivered solid results.
At times, Curry looked very disruptive as a Nickel DT. He was quick off the ball and able to pressure the QB. Those blockers who could handle his quickness shut Curry down.
Much to my surprise, Curry actually got better when used as a DE in the base defense. There were plays when he executed the 2-gap technique perfectly. This showed physical ability, but just as importantly…coachability. He was willing to listen and learn. Some players resist change and it can really hurt them.
The adjustment from an outside edge rusher to an inside rusher can be difficult. Instead of tackles, you’re frequently dealing with guards, whose girth gives them an advantage over you in short-area confrontations. You’re also not able to take advantage of your speed like you can when you line up on the outside.
Curry said he has spent a lot of time in the film room studying quicker interior pass-rushers, including ex-Eagles Cullen Jenkins and Mike Patterson. Curry’s burst was evident in that first sack against the Chiefs last year when Kansas City tried to slide its protection on a bootleg and he blew through the line between right tackle Eric Fisher and tight end Kevin Brock and dragged down Alex Smith for a 6-yard loss.
“You try to study what they did and how you can use what they did to help you,” he said. “Though there are some things you can’t do because you’re not 320, 330 pounds like them.”
Curry had 31 quarterback sacks, hits or hurries in only 228 pass-rush opportunities last season (13.6 percent), according to Pro Football Focus. That’s actually a higher percent than Cole (11.4 percent), who had a team-high eight sacks, Barwin (9.6) and Cox (8.9).
The Eagles’ pass rush needs to improve this season. They finished 21st in sacks last year with 37, and were 31st in sacks per pass play.
They are hoping Cole has at least one more double-digit sack run left in his 31-year-old body and they are hoping first-round pick Marcus Smith will have an immediate pass-rush impact.
A breakout year from Curry also would be helpful.
“This season, I want to be a factor,” he said. “Where it’s third-and-long and my teammates are like, ‘Let’s go, V. Here we go.’
“You want to be that guy that people can lean on. You want to be that teammate where when you come in, it’s like when [the New York Knicks'] J.R. Smith comes in. Because he’s like a sixth man of the year kind of thing. I just want to be that kind of guy for my team.
“I want to make people walk away from an Eagles game, first of all happy that we won, and second of all [saying], ‘Did you see that boy, Vinny? He was all over the field.’ You want that kind of buzz. That way, you know all your hard work is paying off.
“And people understand that this guy was picked in the second round for a reason.”
I sure hope Curry can take the next step. There will be better competition on the D-line this year. Joe Kruger, Taylor Hart and possibly Damion Square will battle Curry for 2 or 3 spots. Curry is a good role player, but needs to show he can be a consistently effective DE in the base offense.
Because Curry is a local product and grew up an Eagles fan, it would be all the sweeter for him to become a good Eagles player. The scheme doesn’t do him any favors, but the Eagles could be a team that plays with a lead much of the time and that could give Curry more chances to get after the QB. That is where he can really shine.
Keep your fingers crossed on Curry. It would be fun for him to make it and the Eagles must get better at rushing the passer.
* * * * *
There wasn’t anything groundbreaking, but it was interesting to listen to Maragos talk about a few things. He wants to be a leader, but also understands he is here primarily as a STer. He’ll speak up when he feels it is right, but will also lead by example in the sense of just working his butt off every day in practice. Young players can learn that STs are not to be taken lightly. They can give you a job in the NFL.
Maragos also talked about how his Super Bowl experience can help. He will emphasize to his teammates that sometimes it is the smallest of things that can lead to success in the postseason. Everyone must do their job on a given play. A seemingly innocent breakdown on STs can prove to be disastrous.