Bill Davis admits OLB transition ‘weakened' Vinny Curry


Back on Aug. 21, when the Eagles decided to "accelerate" Vinny Curry's reps at outside linebacker after backups Marcus Smith and Travis Long had gotten hurt, defensive coordinator Bill Davis was asked how it might affect Curry as a defensive end.

"It won't affect that role," Davis said then. "He'll still hold onto that role because he's so effective in it. That's just a case of can we expand his role? We can expand his role a little bit or a lot depending on how fast he can pick it up."

Ten weeks later, Davis admitted the expansion of Curry's role made him less effective as a defensive end.

"I don't think it was real fair to Vinny not giving him the offseason to do it," Davis said before practice Wednesday.

"When we had Travis Long and we had some other bodies out there, we felt like we had some depth and a lot of competition and Vinny could grow inside and do all those things. Then when we lost Travis and lost some numbers there, we put Vinny out there, but it kind of weakened the rest of his game. So we kind of put him back in there (at defensive end) and said, 'Hey, go do what you do. You’ve had a lot of success there and let's look at some other spots.'

"Outside 'backer conversion takes a lot of reps to get it down and it wasn’t real fair to Vinny to throw him out there that quick. And I was trying to manipulate what he was doing out there, but we felt like it weakened us and Vinny’s game."

Reason No. 7,500 why summertime coach-speak should be taken with a grain of salt.

Curry had nine sacks last season despite playing just 33 percent of the Eagles' defensive snaps. This season, he's actually played a lower percentage of snaps despite seeing time as a backup at two positions. Curry has played 30.9 percent of the Eagles' defensive snaps in 2015 and has just one sack and three QB hits.

But Curry, who is no longer seeing game-time as an OLB, is still generating some pressure on opposing quarterbacks despite those mediocre stats. According to Pro Football Focus, he's hurried the QB 11 times in the last five games, tied for second on the Eagles over that span behind only Brandon Graham.

So despite not finishing as many plays as he did last season, Curry has still been somewhat efficient. His 11 QB hurries on 140 pass-rushing snaps this season equal out to one every 12.7 tries, compared to one every 15.3 tries last season.

"They've just been letting me get back to myself," Curry said after practice Wednesday, before pausing and adding, "when I'm in there."

Curry is best suited as a 4-3 defensive end. He was drafted by the Andy Reid regime to be just that. But Reid was fired after Curry's rookie season, and when Chip Kelly and Davis came in they installed a 3-4 defense.

It was impressive last season for Curry to have so much success rushing the passer considering a DE has more run-stuffing responsibilities in a 3-4 than in a 4-3. But his name unsurprisingly popped up on the trade block earlier this week, and though he remained an Eagle past Tuesday's deadline, he probably isn't long for this organization. Curry is a free agent after the season and will likely be looking for a 4-3 defense. He'll also probably find more money elsewhere.

He didn't want to talk much about Davis' comments Wednesday.

"Honestly, bro, whatever I can do for the team, I'll do," Curry said. "We just had injuries at OLB so it calls for different things. It is what it is. I would like to say I'm getting back on track."

One Eagle who successfully made the transition from defensive end to outside linebacker when Kelly and Davis arrived was Graham, who the Eagles liked enough to re-sign this offseason to a four-year, $26 million contract with $13 million guaranteed.

Graham recalls the biggest challenge being the coverage aspect at outside linebacker. You're asked to drop more to cover running backs and tight ends, job descriptions that differ greatly from those at defensive end.

Graham agreed with Davis' assessment that Curry simply didn't receive enough time this summer at the new position.

"I think Vinny's a good football player, somebody's who's gonna get after the quarterback," Graham said Wednesday. "In time, I think he would have been real good at outside linebacker if they gave him the time they gave us to transition."

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