On Curry, State Of the Outside Linebackers
Vinny Curry has been training at outside linebacker full-time for all of two weeks now, so it should probably come as no surprise that his debut at the position Monday night was far from flawless.
“He was a little up‑and‑down there,” said Chip Kelly. “A couple times, he lost containment: once on the quarterback when we had a naked back our way. But I thought the transition for him, never really having played there and just got his feet wet in the preseason, we felt he did a good job. But we have got to get dialed in a little bit some on responsibilities.”
Curry played 21 snaps (or 27 percent on the time) against the Falcons. He was deployed mostly on run downs, he said, to minimize the chances that he would have to drop into coverage.
The four-year vet did line up at OLB here and there during the offseason training program, but that seemed to be more about Billy Davis searching for creative ways to use Curry as a situational pass-rusher. Now he’s smack in the middle of a crash course on the position, trying to grasp the different run fits and various nuances while attempting to play at full speed.
“It’s not easy,” Curry acknowledged. “I mean, it’s definitely not easy. I’m still learning. All you can do from here is keep progressing.”
Last year’s outside linebacker set-up was nice and neat, with Connor Barwin and Trent Cole as the starters and Brandon Graham serving as a productive number three. This year it’s Barwin and Graham and then question marks. Travis Long had a shot at carving out a role before tearing his ACL. That injury shifted focus back to first-round pick Marcus Smith, who had issues staying healthy this offseason. A hamstring injury kept him out of the opener, though he is practicing in full this week.
“Today was a big test for me to see if I could get through an entire practice and I did. I did some things really well today and I was pleased with how practice went,” said Smith.
“I think Marcus has been doing good,” added Graham. “It’s unfortunate he’s had to deal with the injuries and stuff like that but I think he’s been working harder than a lot of people out there, and is determined to get that spot back.”
For the moment, it appears that spot belongs to Curry. Given the amount of snaps this defense normally faces, it’s no small job. Davis needs to be able to roll fresh bodies in to prevent his pass-rushers from getting worn down. But right now they are trying to limit Curry’s exposure because, frankly, he hasn’t had enough time to get ready.
“It’s a challenge for anybody just with the time that he’s done it, to know what he is supposed to do,” said Barwin. “He’s done a good job so far but he’s only been there just over two weeks I think. So to be thrown into a real game with less than two weeks at the position is not a lot of time to know exactly what you’re supposed to be doing. He’s limited in that aspect but he did a good job with the time that he got to practice.”