Secret Superstars 2014: Eagles
Not everything that went right for the Eagles in 2014 was on the offense as this edition of Secret Superstars shows.
Secret Superstars 2014: Eagles
With a scant 426 snaps in two seasons, this Eagle had to make quite impression to beat out a handful of deserving teammates. Well this defensive end has done just that and then some in his limited time on the field with Philadelphia. Fresh off a season that saw him collect a +11.9 overall grade and a +10.2 pass rushing grade, Vinny Curry is the Philadelphia Eagles Secret Superstar.
A second round pick out of Marshall in 2012, Curry’s pro career got off to a rocky start. He was a health inactive for the first 10 games of his rookie season and then saw just 89 snaps over the final six games. It’s tough to draw conclusions from so few snaps, but Curry didn’t make a strong impression either way. The rookie had three pressures in 33 pass rushes, six run stops in 56 run snaps, and an overall grade of -0.7. It wasn’t awful, but there were no indications of superstar potential that first season.
Making His Mark
The offseason switch to a 3-4 brought up numerous question marks in regards to Curry. He had never played in a 3-4 before. All throughout college and his first season in the NFL Curry was a defensive end in a 4-3 system. At the combine he weighed in at a svelte 266 pounds. That size usually correlates to an outside linebacker in a 3-4. Curry never had ideal quickness for the position though (4.98 40 yard dash at the combine), and Chip Kelly rendered his decision stating that Curry would bulk up and play inside.
Any critics of the decision when preseason rolled around were quickly silenced. Curry was up to 279 pounds and looked like a natural. The second year pro recorded a sack and two hits in 25 snaps against the Patriots and then two pressures and two stops in just 17 snaps against the Panthers. Once the preseason was completed, Curry had a +10.7 overall grade in 105 snaps with a +4.5 run grade and a +5.7 pass rushing grade. The defensive end had amassed two sacks, four hits, five hurries and six stops for the third highest overall grade of any defensive linemen. While it’s true that all those numbers were compiled in meaningless games, it’s hard to just ignore that kind of production.
Producing When Counted
Even with Curry’s insane preseason, he was yet again inactive for the first two weeks of the season. The frustration mounted and Curry’s agent, Kevin Connor, issued a statement saying that his client just wanted to play and would be open to a trade. Thankfully, it never escalated further than that and the Eagles end was on the field recording his first career sack on Alex Smith in Week 3.
The rest is history and Curry quickly settled into his role playing mainly in sub-package as a pass rushing specialist. In his 322 regular season snaps, Curry performed that role better than any 3-4 end in the NFL sans J.J. Watt. Curry registered 32 combined pressures in 217 pass rushing snaps for a Pass Rush Productivity grade of 11.6. Not only was that the second best PRP last season, but it was also the second best PRP we’ve ever seen from a 3-4 end in PFF’s seven seasons of data. To give you an idea of how crazy 32 pressures is in 217 snaps, Curry had one fewer pressure than Defensive Rookie of the Year Sheldon Richardson even though Richardson had 264 more opportunities (2.2 times as many pass rushing snaps).
That type of production is almost impossible to chalk up to being a fluke. An undersized, second-year end, playing a brand new position, was one of the most efficient interior rushers of the past seven seasons. It’s exciting to think about what could be next for Curry.
More on the Way?
Will Curry get an increased role or will he continue to be limited to a sub-package role? That is the million dollar question, and multi-million in Curry’s case. Reviewing his snaps, you can’t help but see a player that is still raw. Curry doesn’t have a refined set of pass rushing moves and his two-gapping is a far cry from that of teammate Cedric Thornton. At 6-foot-3, 279 pounds, Curry still lacks ideal size for a 3-4 end and his ability to hold the point suffers as a result. Curry allows himself to get knocked off balance too often and rarely stands up opposing linemen while gaining control of the block. These are tenets of being a 3-4 end and the reasons why Curry has had such a tough time just finding the field.
Much like Brandon Graham, one can’t help but think about what Curry could be in a 4-3 defense. The reason why Curry still finished the season with a positive run defense grade (+0.5), despite all the cons listed above, is because he almost never gets stuck on a block. The second year linemen is relentless when shedding a block against both the run and pass and are at his best when given the opportunity to attack.
A 3-4 may not suit him best, but Curry has the type of tools that can succeed regardless of scheme. To see more snaps, he’ll have to refine his technique and continue to get even bigger than he was last season. If he can do that, he may not be a secret for long.
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