Heading into Thursday’s game, Billy Davis was asked if it is frustrating that two of his top pass-rushers — Brandon Graham and Vinny Curry — are not natural scheme fits and therefor must see a limited amount of snaps.
“I don’t think anybody’s a full‑time player. When you’re talking d‑line to me, I don’t view full‑time and part‑time players. There are different two‑gap schemes and gap-penetrate schemes where we’re rushing, they all fit. Those pass rushers fit,” he said. “It’s just different sections of the scheme that we use. I’m very impressed. Those are two good pass rushers you’re talking about.”
There has been plenty of talk about how long Curry and Graham will remain in Philadelphia considering that they are both edge 4-3 rushers playing unnatural positions in a 3-4. Curry is undersized to be a pure two-gapping defensive end, and Graham isn’t fluid enough in space to be the type of versatile outside linebacker that this system craves.
What they can do is rush the passer, maybe better than anyone else on the team right now. The Eagles have sacked the quarterback five times in three preseason games. Curry and Graham are responsible for four of them (two apiece) and Alejandro Villanueva, a longshot to make the team, had the other. Things like level of competition need to be factored in when talking about preseason numbers, but there's no question who has had the highest success rate getting to the QB. Graham and Curry had a sack each against the Steelers. Both came against Pittsburgh's first-team offense.
Graham's was a strip-sack at the end of the first half, as he was able to bull his way into the backfield and past his defender before crashing down on Ben Roethlisberger's throwing arm.
They teamed up for a takedown in the third quarter. Graham brought pressure off the edge, forcing Roethisberger to step up.
And Curry cleaned up.
That was on 3rd-and-12. Getting off the field on third down was an issue last season and through the first couple preseason games this year. Lack of pass rush has been the main culprit.
Graham and Curry can rush the passer. They might be limited in other areas, but that skill set alone should be enough to keep them on the team and in the rotation.
Graham' status has been the most in doubt. But between his strong showing this preseason and the fact that Marcus Smith doesn't seem ready to take on a big role yet, the chances of him sticking have probably improved.
"I'm just trying to make this team and secure a spot because I know how great we can be," said Graham. "I'm happy but I can get better and that's the thing, it's like, man, I'm here, I know I'm going to get better every week, my attitude and focus is all about the team. I know we can take it to the next level. I want to be here to see us win a championship. I want to be part of that."