Eagles Defense could rely heavily on Vinny Curry in 2016

The Eagles made plenty of moves during a frantic offseason period, from the monster Fletcher Cox contract extension, to the more subtle extensions of Lane Johnson and Zach Ertz. But one player who signed a new deal very early on, was Vinny Curry..and although he may not be the most high profile signing on the roster, he could be one of the most important.

Curry signed a deal worth $46.5 million and $18 million guaranteed that will keep him in Philadelphia for the foreseeable future The move came as a surprise to some after he failed to replicate the dominance displayed in 2014, but it’s not until you dig a little deeper that you see the ceiling Curry possesses and how heavily held back he was under Billy Davis.

A year after achieving 9 sacks and 19 tackles as a rookie that struggled to find playing time under Jim Washburn, Curry tallied just 3.5 sacks and 12 tackles. The stats are interesting considering that Curry actually played in more defensive snaps than he did in 2014. Curry played in 32% of defensive snaps in 2014 and 35.2% of defensive snaps in 2015.

The problem was, Curry became a situational pass-rusher. A hybrid linebacker and defensive end, Curry was simply plugged in when needed..and in a two gap scheme which does anything but highlight Curry’s talents, all signs pointed to a season in the shadows.

Despite being chained down and misused, Curry was still able to make an impact on the Defense. While his stat-sheet didn’t set the world on fire, it’s not as if he was invisible on Defense. Curry was beyond efficient in the limited snaps he saw last season, ranking second among 3-4 DE’s in “Pass Rush Productivity”. Curry forced 49 pressures in 340 pass rush situations, finishing second to only J.J Watt. Curry has ranked in the top five for three consecutive seasons in this statistic.

Now, in a contrasting “attacking” Defense under Jim Schwartz, Curry is set to be unleashed. Not only is the developing leader of the Defense stepping into more snaps as a starter, but there will be much more responsibility placed on his shoulders.

Connor Barwin is returning to the position for the first time since his rookie season with the Texans. Having led the Eagles in sacks in 2014, it’s clear Barwin has a real talent in getting to the quarterback..but his dip in form in 2015 could see the transition become slightly problematic at times.

The other DE’s on the roster are as follows:

Bryan Braman
Brandon Graham
Mike Martin
Alex McCalister
Steven means
Marcus Smith

Brandon Graham is clearly the other starter here. Coming off of an impressive 2015 campaign in which he posted career highs in Tackles, Sacks and Forced Fumbles, the transition to DE will be a familiar one for Graham having began his career at the position..the only difference is, he will now be starting.

Beyond that however with the exception of Mike Martin..it’s still a relatively young core. Marcus Smith is in a do-or-die scenario, with Steven Means in the same boat. This leaves Alex McCalister..a seventh round pick out of Florida.

With youth an uncertainty at the position beyond Graham and Curry, it’s imperative that Curry takes on a leadership role as he has done with the rest of the Defense and help the younger guys to find their feet in such a demanding system.

Not only that, but beyond Graham, Curry and Barwin..the depth is scarce on both talent and abundance. Smith has a lot to prove this season and will be looking for any opportunity to do so, but the expectations aren’t high. If Curry fails to impress in 2016 or even worse, fall injured..the Eagles could be in for a bumpy ride at DE.

With no real cushion for Curry to fall back on, he’s bee thrust into a position of responsibility. He’s in a system where success could well depend on his level of play and ability to consistently get in the face of the quarterback.

Curry is extremely deserving of his payday..but with a system that leans so heavily on a successful pass rush, it’s important that Curry makes the jump up from situational pass rusher to starting defensive end quickly.

He may not be the highest paid non-QB in the NFL..and he may not have the reputation of being one of the best in his position..but that could all change in 2016..and it’s that potential that the Eagles have invested in..and Jim Schwartz has placed his trust into.


Photo credit: Michael Perez/Associated Press