Vinny Curry ready for debut on Eagles defensive line

Rookie defensive end Vinny Curry, a second-round pick, hopes to play Monday for the Eagles.
Rookie defensive end Vinny Curry, a second-round pick, hopes to play Monday for the Eagles. (CLEM MURRAY / Staff)
Posted: November 22, 2012

Vinny Curry wore a high-top fade two weeks ago. The rookie second-round pick thought he was going to make his debut at defensive end, and wanted the hairstyle for his first appearance in front of Eagles fans. But Curry was a healthy scratch again.

So Curry got another haircut last week. His luck still did not change and he did not dress for the 10th consecutive game.

Eagles fans finally will get to see Curry in Week 12. He likely will be active for Monday's game against the Carolina Panthers, according to a team source. If quarterback Michael Vick and running back LeSean McCoy cannot play because of concussions and Curry is active, five of the seven rookie draft picks will play, and all seven will dress for the game.

"I'm pretty sure the fans want to know where their [second-round] pick's at," Curry said last week. "I'm wondering the same thing. But it's damn sure not a talent issue. They have their guys set already. Ankle sprain in the summer, that's all I could think of."

When asked about Curry's inactivity, several people on the team said the former Marshall star was caught in a numbers game. The Eagles start Jason Babin and Trent Cole, both former Pro Bowlers. Brandon Graham and Darryl Tapp also have been regular players, and Phillip Hunt has played in the majority of games this season. The Eagles dress a maximum of five defensive ends and have dressed four in the last three weeks.

But the Eagles defensive ends are not playing up to their reputations. They have combined for eight sacks this season. It's worth wondering why a second-round pick who had 11 sacks and seven forced fumbles as a college senior cannot reach the field.

"I don't think anybody's playing bad," defensive coordinator Todd Bowles said, even if the statistics suggest otherwise. "I think he's closed the gap considerably."

Other defensive linemen on the roster praised Curry, acknowledging that the 24-year-old from Neptune, Monmouth County, has improved throughout the season. Cole noted that there are tendencies of opposing tackles that Curry has learned by watching and listening.

"I believe he's good now, but he's got a lot to learn," Cole said. "I think he's a good pass rusher. He's got a lot of great things. There's some things I wish I did that he does now. He's one guy who comes off low, staying textbook, don't show your numbers. But he's going to be great. Keep learning, keep watching."

Second-round picks are valuable in the NFL, and if a player taken that high does not play at all, he begins to be considered a bust. But coach Andy Reid has said that depth at the position has kept the 6-foot-3, 266-pound Curry on the sideline. Fellow second-round pick Mychal Kendricks started immediately at linebacker, but it was expected that Curry would need to wait his turn.

When Mike Patterson returned from offseason brain surgery three weeks ago, Curry's chances of playing appeared even slimmer. Even when Darryl Tapp missed a game because his wife was giving birth, Curry still could not play.

Curry said he goes "with the flow" and does not pester the coaches about his lack of playing time. As a rookie - particularly on a team that is 3-7 - he does not believe he can do so.

"If I go to ask them, that'll look selfish on my part," Curry said. "When it's time to put me in there, and they're ready to put me in there, I've just got to hold up my end of the bargain."

It appears Curry finally will get that chance, and with the season all but lost, he could play the rest of the way. If he thrives, there will be reason to wonder why it took so long. If he struggles, the answer might be apparent.

"Anything you can think of to try to get on the field," Curry said, "I've been working at."


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Birds news as it happens on Twitter: @Jeff_McLane @zberm

Panthers at Eagles

Monday at 8:30 p.m. (6ABC, ESPN)


Contact Zach Berman at zberman@phillynews.com. Follow on Twitter @ZBerm.

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