It’s no secret that the Philadelphia Eagles need to improve their pass rush in 2014. Adding first round rookie Marcus Smith to the pass rushing mix this year should help as well as the returning players being more comfortable in the scheme.
But, after finishing 20th in sacks, 31st in sacks per pass play and 32nd in pass defense, there’s no denying that the defense needs more producton in this area. We can’t completely rely on just a rookie and improvement from the returning starters.
Enter Vinny Curry.
Curry struggled to learn the new scheme last year, particularly going from one-gap assignments to two-gap assignments (something he’s never done). As a result, his playing time was limited.
However, as the season went on, he earned more playing time. In the first half of the season, Curry played only 102 snaps and was deactivated for the first two weeks. He more than doubled that in the second half (including the playoff game) when he played 235 snaps.
He totaled 337 snaps on the season and recorded four sacks, 22 QB hurries and 13 “stops” per Pro Football Focus. PFF, by the way, describes a “stop” as “the number of solo defensive tackles made which constitute an offensive failure (including sacks).”
(One example of an “offensive failure” is if it’s 3rd and 3 and the play only gains 2 yards.)
In comparison to the starting Defensive Ends for the Eagles, Fletcher Cox had three sacks, 39 hurries and 26 stops in 970 snaps while Cedric Thornton posted one sack, 18 hurries and 36 stops in 787 snaps.
Since Curry played roughly a third of the amount of snaps as Cox, if we extrapolate his numbers out to the same amount of snaps, he’d have 12 sacks, 66 hurries and 39 stops (roughly, going by “thirds”).
Now, obviously, this isn’t quite that easy to sit here and say that’s what Curry would do if given the same opportunities. Too many variables are at play and Curry had the benefit of playing primarily in pass rushing situations.
However, if he’s that productive in a limited number of snaps, it stands to reason that hey, the guy has some freakin’ talent so why don’t we give him more snaps and see what he can do.
Yes, he was drafted to play as a 4-3 DE and his size/athleticism combo made him somewhat of a man without a position in the new defense. But, the coaches decided to bulk him up to play at DE rather than OLB.
As he stands right now, Curry is 6′ 3″, 279 lbs and plans on entering camp at 283 lbs. If you think he’s too small, let’s check out some other 3-4 DE’s…
Cameron Jordan is listed as a 3-4 DE and stands 6′ 4″, 287 lbs and posted 12.5 sacks last year. Buffalo’s Kyle Williams is 6′ 1″, 295 lbs and posted 10.5 sacks. Justin Smith is 6′ 4″, 275 lbs and is a five-time Pro Bowler.
Size isn’t the end-all-be-all. Plus, it’s not as if Curry is “small” anyway and when you compare him to the above guys that have produced as a 3-4 DE, it really comes down to a matter of whether or not he can play.
Can Curry play? I say yes, absolutely. Based on what I’ve seen from him in his limited opportunities, the guy can play. He deserves more time. He deserves a shot to show what he can do.
PFF agrees with me as they had him as the Eagles’ “secret superstar” in an article they posted last month. Hell, Curry himself says that “this is definitely going to be the year” in a recent Eagles Insider Podcast.
The NFL is a passing league these days and every defense needs to get after the Quarterback as the best way to defend it. Wouldn’t that mean giving your best pass rushers a chance to do what they do best more often?
All we need is for Chip Kelly and Bill Davis to give him a shot. They know he can rush the passer so hopefully Curry shows improvement in his ability to set the edge in camp and preseason and that forces the coaches to take notice.
Some folks may feel that he’s a better fit as a 4-3 DE, his “natural” position. However, I believe he can excel in this defense and it started to show last year as the season progressed.
If the coaches simply won’t give him a shot, then they should do him a favor and trade him or let him move on. It would be ashame to let his skills go to waste.