Curry in a rush to help Eagles' defense

Posted: August 13, 2014

THE ONLY EAGLE who grew up with silver-and-green posters all over his walls doesn't want to say the wrong thing, so he talks about how he just wants to "help the team the best way I can."

But Vinny Curry would prefer to help the Eagles by starting at defensive end, the way he envisioned when his favorite team drafted him in the second round, 59th overall, in 2012.

It's an odd situation, because in Friday night's preseason opener, Curry and 2010 first-round pick Brandon Graham were the Eagles' two most effective pass rushers. Yet neither Curry nor Graham is likely to start in coordinator Bill Davis' two-gap, 3-4 defense. Graham and Curry were drafted by the previous regime, to be one-gap, 4-3 pass rushers.

Graham is trying to adapt to playing 3-4 linebacker, and he has shown he can rush effectively from a standup, 3-4 stance - but he has no pass-coverage instincts.

Curry, at 6-3, 279, is too big to be a 3-4 linebacker and probably isn't stout enough to be an every-down 3-4 end, particularly on running downs.

"Vinny Curry has a great pass-rush skill set. And you see that every time he's in there," Davis said yesterday. "When we're out of our 3-4 mentality and in our third down, Vinny's always in the backfield. And he does that well. The two-gap part of it, he's a little undersized, but getting better, and better and better at two-gapping. So when you talk about Vinny and you . . . ask him to take on 500 pounds of men in a double team, that's not his world. When you ask Vinny to get in the gap and penetrate, that's his world. So we're trying to grow and put Vinny in the best positions for him.

"Then you have the whole defensive unit out there, and how it all fits together is where it gets to where you have to be creative and make sure the situation and the call match the talent, and we do what they do best.

"And that's what Vinny does best, is penetrate."

It doesn't help Curry that while the Eagles didn't go out and get a great edge rusher this season, they did add some solid youngsters to the mix. Davis might try to make up for a lack of a big-time difference-maker by constantly rotating in fresh legs.

"We have a good young group of defensive linemen across the board that, rolling them through, I'm excited," Davis said. "It's not a problem. It's just great to have competition and a rotation."

So, though Davis acknowledges how much Curry has improved, Davis still basically sees him as a situational player, and in this defense, it's hard to say he's wrong. Of course, that isn't what Curry wants to be.

How hard has he worked at learning the two-gap, read-and-react style?

"Super hard. I work on it every single day . . . I'm getting better and better at it," Curry, who grew up in Neptune, N.J., said yesterday. "It's about will and want-to [as well as physical attributes]. At the end of the day, we're all men. It's all about the knock-back and the perfect technique that [defensive line coach Jerry Azzinaro] tries to preach every day."

Curry notched four sacks while playing about 18 snaps a game last year. That's less than a third of the snaps available in a normal game. He thinks he could post double-digit sack numbers if he played more, and he might be right. But teams would want to run at him.

Curry tried to add weight last year, but didn't feel effective with the added pounds.

"My stomach stuck out from here to the microphone," he said, gesturing at a reporter a few feet away.

Curry knows he is becoming a cause célèbre with some Eagles fans, who like aggressive pass-rushers and would like to see more of him.

"One thing about Philadelphia, man, we just want to win so bad," he said. "We want whoever . . . Us Philly fans, we all got a say-so - we want our opinions to be known . . . I try not to feed too much into it, because if you feed too much into it, you have an attitude out there."


On Twitter: @LesBowen

Blog: ph.ly/Eagletarian

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