It’s the start of an exciting new era in Philadelphia for fans, players and coaches alike. With Jim Schwartz taking control of the Defense, aggression seems to be a central theme. There’s a hungry, misused and potentially a huge game changer for the Eagles..and that man is 2012 2nd round pick, Vinny Curry.
Going into the 2016 season, it’ll be Curry’s first as a starter for the Eagles after signing a new five year deal during the offseason. A misfit to Chip Kelly’s 3-4 defensive scheme, Curry returns to a defense he was originally drafted into, a 4-3 wide nine scheme.
He’s shown incredible flashes in his career, thus far, and it’s easy to see his pass-rush potential on film. In 2014, Curry’s best year in the league, he accumulated nine sacks (it would’ve been 12, if not for penalties, calling them back), while only playing in 32% of all defensive snaps. In 2015, Curry had 34 quarterback hurries, while only playing 426 snaps which may not sound too impressive..until you compare those numbers to J.J Watt of the Houstan Texans. Watt had 37 quarterback hurries in 1022 snaps.
Another thing that helps Curry’s case in finally fulfilling his full pass-rush potential, is the success defensive ends have had under Schwartz. In the 14 seasons that Jim Schwartz was a team’s defensive coordinator/head coach, only three times did a player, other than a defensive end, lead the team in sacks. Only defensive tackles Ndamukong Suh and Albert Haynesworth, led their respected teams in sacks, under Schwartz, in those three seasons.
Typically defensive ends lead their respected teams in sacks. Haynesworth and Suh played majority of their careers under Jim Schwartz. Both were their team’s best defensive lineman at the time, as Fletcher Cox is to the Eagles. So having a defensive end lead Schwartz’s teams in sacks 11 out of his 14 seasons, is still an overlooked detail.
There’s six defensive ends that finished with a total of ten or more sacks, in a season, while being coached by Schwartz (Jevon Kearse, Kevin Carter, Kyle Vanden Bosch, Cliff Avril, Jerry Hughes, and Mario Williams). Ezekiel Ansah (Lions first round pick in 2013) finished his rookie season with eight sacks, his lone season under Schwartz. So as you see, many defensive ends have reaped the benefits of playing in Schwartz’s heavy pass-rush scheme.
Vinny Curry is that exact speed rusher Jim Schwartz needs for his system. It’s not a coincidence the Eagles moved swiftly to re-signing him long before free agency started. Curry ran a 4.98, in the 40 dash, at the NFL combine. But, later came back and ran a 4.69, during his pro-day. If he can continue that pace of speed in 2016, it’s not a bold prediction, saying Curry will lead the Eagles in sacks.
Of course, the Eagles have some other studs on that defensive line. Fletcher Cox is an elite player. Returning to his original position at defensive tackle, garnering less double teams than he was while being a 3-4 defensive end, is only going to help his pass-rushing abilities. Brandon Graham still owes Schwartz half of his rookie salary.
Graham played for Jim Schwartz, in the 2010 senior bowl. He registered two sacks and forced a fumble, later leading him to be the MVP of the game. Connor Barwin, the Eagles 2014 leader in sacks, is also strictly rushing the passer this year. He’ll most likely be in a situational role, but nevertheless, could rack up some good numbers.
The point is, don’t sleep on Vinny Curry this season. No more snap restrictions, no more backup roles, or struggling to find a role in a defense that didn’t fit him. He’s being unleashed this season, finally showcasing his pass-rushing talent. Don’t be shocked once we realize how good of a player the Eagles had all along, in Vinny Curry.
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