Thursday, June 18, 2015

Curry gets a look at OLB

Vinny Curry shadows Connor Barwin
By John McMullen

PHILADELPHIA - Chip Kelly often tries to downplay what goes on in June but a few eyebrows were raised this week when defensive end Vinny Curry got a few looks at outside linebacker in the team's minicamp.

Curry is one of the Eagles' best pure pass rushers but he's also a throwback to the Andy Reid regime and a prototypical end for a 4-3 system. Expecting the 6-foot-3, 280-pount Marshall product to turn into a two-gap, five-technique is the definition of pounding the square peg in the round hole and wasting what Curry does best, rush the passer.

In fact Curry was so good getting to the opposing signal caller last season that defensive coordinator Bill Davis was forced to use multiple fronts in order to get Curry on the field in obvious pass-rushing situations.

Despite playing just 32 percent of the team's defensive snaps last season, Curry finished second on the Eagles with nine sacks and led the club with four forced fumbles.

"I was over the hump and could get back to being Vinny Curry and having fun playing football and getting to the quarterback and dancing," the fourth-year player said. " And do what I do smiling. Everything finally was coming together the way I dreamed of it coming together."

Maybe not everything.

Curry simply does not have the skill set of that aforementioned five-technique, meaning he's not going to push Fletcher Cox or Cedric Thornton for reps in the base defense.

His production, though, says Curry should be on the field more and Philadelphia has an opening in its rotation at outside linebacker now that Trent Cole calls Indianapolis home and Brandon Graham has been elevated to the starting lineup.

With Marcus Smith continuing to struggle, at least in the coaching staff's eyes, and Travis Long likely not ready for prime time Curry was mixed it at outside linebacker.

"I think (Curry's) expanded his role in terms of where we can deploy him," Kelly said.

The obvious issue with Curry at linebacker is dropping off into coverage, something he may not be asked to do all that much but will have to do occasionally so Davis doesn't tip his hand on any given play.

"There will be a couple (of plays) he will drop to keep people honest, but he won't be doing what I am doing," said Pro Bowl linebacker Connor Barwin, a versatile player who piled up a career-high 14 1/2 sacks last season but is also asked to cover opposing playmakers.

"The coaches aren't stupid," Barwin continued. "(They) won't put him out there to cover running backs and receivers. They are putting him out there to rush the quarterback."

For what it's worth Curry is embracing the opportunity to get on the field more just as his rookie contract nears its completion.

"I have to stay the course and keep improving each day and every day in practice," Curry said, "and, hopefully, I will be ready for anything that comes my way."

By no means is this Curry experiment a fait accompli, though.

Come August when DeMeco Ryans is healthy, he figures to rejoin the starting group at inside linebacker next to the newly-acquired Kiko Alonso. And that could kick the talented Mychal Kendricks outside if the Eagles aren't able to move him.

Having options is never a bad thing, though, so cross-training Curry was one of the more interesting developments of minicamp.
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