We’re officially one week away from the start of the regular season. The 53-man roster has been finalized and the aim was simple: Assemble the most talented team possible.
Howie Roseman did a stellar job in doing just that, placing extra focus on defensive end where the team are now carrying six pass-rushers into week one. But even with Daeshon Hall’s presence following a preseason breakout, there are still questions over the prestige at the position. Hall appears to have beaten out both Josh Sweat and Shareef Miller for the vacated EDGE4 role, which of course carries promise and concern. But when asked about the position as a whole, Roseman pointed to a different name.
“Vinny [Curry] looks better than he did two years ago.” The Eagles GM said on Saturday evening. “Vinny is a guy who has come back with a renewed focus and a renewed energy. His leadership and his energy on the practice field has been great.”
Curry was drafted by the Eagles in the second round of the 2012 NFL Draft and would go on to carve a role in numerous defensive schemes. After a career-high 9 sacks in 2014, hopes were high and he played his way to a big-time payday in 2016.
The problem was that the payday was perhaps a little too big. Curry’s production over the course of the next two years didn’t marry up to the cap hit he was tied to and although his career-high 42 tackles played a huge role in the team’s emphatic Super Bowl run, the Birds were left with no choice but to part ways in order to save $5M in cap space.
The defensive end landed in Tampa Bay after his refusal to take a pay-cut left the Birds’ with little in the way of options. They had to let him walk in order to swim against the ‘Super Bowl spike’ that they were bound to experience.
Curry played in 55% of defensive snaps during the team’s Super Bowl run, amassing 3 sacks and a career-high 42 tackles. Those numbers, for a variety of reasons, weren’t reached in Tampa Bay…but now Curry, a native of PA, is back home. He told reporters after during an OTA practice that his lone season in Tampa Bay just felt like an ‘extended offseason’. He’s not the only one excited by the return, either.
“I would even start and [DE] Vinny Curry, getting him back.” Schwartz said when asked about the offseason additions to his defense. “He really looks like he hasn’t missed a beat from where he was when he last played a game for us, which was in Minnesota.”
Beneath Curry on the depth chart lies a total unknown. A preseason hero and two fourth-round selections with question marks over their heads. Josh Sweat was unable to make a huge impact as a rookie and despite a flurry of offseason praise, his preseason was tame. Shareef Miller, this year’s fourth-round pick, has a long way to go in terms of his development and it would be unfair to pin expectations of making an impact on his shoulders right away. In that same breath, Daeshon Hall shouldn’t have to bear that burden either, but likely will having earned a spot that high up the depth chart.
Naturally, Vinny Curry, a man who has already proven he can thrive in this scheme, will have to step up. If he does look better and is fully healed from a minor injury that hampered him in Tampa Bay, the Eagles are in good stead. But it goes far beyond the production, the stats, and what we see on the field.
If there is anyone out there who knows what Curry brings to the table, it’s Jim Schwartz and a talent evaluation department who spent six years watching Curry evolve. If those numbers truly weren’t representative of his play, as we know Curry is someone who often struggled to put the icing on a cake he worked hard to bake, then signing him to a one-year, $2.5M contract is not only a bargain, but has the potential to be one of the most impactful signings of the offseason.
There is a young group of pass-rushers stepping into a situation that Curry was in himself not too long ago. Now, as a leader, a veteran, and someone that has weight of a position light on depth on his shoulders, Curry will be the second-oldest at his position and will become somewhat of an ‘older brother’ to the trio of young edge-rushers in the group. And that in itself, a player who is so bought into the culture and helping those around him, is just as, if not more important than how good Curry is on the field.
Mandatory Credit: Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports