Eagles Wake-Up Call: Jim Schwartz Wants To Get Vinny Curry More Playing Time
Vinny Curry is the Eagles’ second highest paid defensive lineman. The 28-year-old pass rusher signed a five-year, $46.25 million contract with Philadelphia in the offseason worth $18 million fully guaranteed. Only star defensive tackle Fletcher Cox, who inked a mega-deal extension in June, makes more than Curry.
Curry might be second in earnings, but he’s not second in defensive line snaps. Or third. Or fourth. The Marshall alumnus has only played 40% of Philadelphia’s defensive snaps this season, which puts him fifth.
So what’s the deal? Why has Curry played so little after signing a deal that pays him like a starter?
First, it’s worth noting Curry began the season with an injury issue. He hasn’t missed any games but he was ruled questionable heading into Philadelphia’s Week 1 matchup due to a knee injury suffered in late August.
Injury alone doesn’t explain Curry’s lack of playing time. The other issue is that the Eagles are paying two other defensive ends, Brandon Graham and Connor Barwin, starting money as well. Curry is part of a rotation that only featured him on the field for 16 snaps in Philadelphia’s Week 5 loss to the Lions. Defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz admitted that Curry needs to be on the field more often.
“That was another one as we look back, probably like to get him and even Beau Allen, getting him some more in there,” said Schwartz.” It’s a tough situation. It’s easy to rotate when things are going [well], you know what I mean? It’s easy to tag the next guy. The next guy goes in, you’re on a roll, you’re getting stops and things like that. When you start giving up plays and you start giving up touchdowns, it becomes a little bit harder just to get those guys in rotation for a lot of different reasons.”
“In the second half, again, fell a little bit to the linebackers. In the second half, there really wasn’t that much of a need to rotate guys because we were getting quick stops, we were getting turnovers, we were getting off the field, and guys were fresh then. But, you know, traditionally we’d like to get him or theoretically we’d like to get him more.”
The always colorful Schwartz also had a funny quote when asked if Curry is practicing at a satisfactory level.
“Practice doesn’t mean anything,” said Schwartz. “I don’t want to get Allen Iverson in there. I mean, you know, it’s all about how you perform on Sunday. He’s been rushing the passer well, and I think that that showed. He was able to get a sack, sort of played off of Fletch[er Cox] on that one. But he’s been affecting the passer. He’s a key part of our defense and he’ll always be involved.”
Through four games, Curry has four tackles and one sack. Barwin only has one more tackle and the same sack total as Curry despite playing nearly double the amount of snaps (176 to 90). If the Eagles are looking to get Curry more playing time, it should come at the expense of Barwin. He hasn’t been overly threatening as a starting 4-3 defensive end. Graham has played well this year (12 tackles, three sacks, one forced fumble) so the Birds shouldn’t be looking to cut down his snaps.
The Eagles’ pass rush has hardly struggled to start the season. Philadelphia’s 14 sacks rank tied for fifth in the league so far, and they’ve played one less game than most teams due to the early bye. Still, there’s room for improvement. Getting to the quarterback will be especially important this week as the Eagles take on Washington. Kirk Cousins has given the Eagles trouble over the past two seasons. Hitting him early and often will be key for the Birds. Getting Curry more playing time could give the Eagles’ pass rush an extra boost.
Speaking of defensive rotations, another situation that drew attention last weekend was Philadelphia’s linebacker usage. It was originally thought Nigel Bradham didn’t play much in the first half of the Eagles-Lions game due to punishment reasons, but that didn’t turn out to be true. Bradham played 79% of the team’s defensive snaps. The reason why that total wasn’t higher, per Schwartz, is because the Eagles were trying to keep their starters fresh.
“Yeah, we’ve taken that approach, particularly with Jordan [Hicks],” said Schwartz. “It just depends the way the game plays. If an opponent chooses to play us in certain personnel packages, we could have some guys play just about every snap and some guys play not very much. Just trying to find ways to mitigate that and try to find ways to keep guys fresh.”
“Every week it’s a little different. I think in that game, maybe that served us in the second half. It’s hard to really say. Maybe those guys were able to fly around a little bit more in the second half because they had a dozen snaps taken off of them or whatever it was in the first half. We could find ways to get all our guys to contribute. But the bottom line is to find a way to win, and we didn’t do a good enough job of that.”
The Eagles’ decision to rotate Stephen Tulloch and Mychal Kendricks in at linebacker drew criticism due to their struggles. Kendricks has especially been a weakness on defense this season. Moving forward, one would think the Eagles will continue to limit his playing time. He had only played nine times in Week 3 before being relied upon on 26 against the Lions.
As a whole, Philadelphia’s defense has played well this year. The Eagles allowed the fewest points in the league heading into Week 5. Schwartz’s unit got off to a rough start by allowing 21 in the first half to Detroit but at least the defense showed resiliency by bouncing back in the second half. The Birds could have easily pitched a shutout in the last two quarters if not for Ryan Mathews‘ costly fumble that gave Detroit good field position near the end of the game.
Still, there’s always room for improvement. And making tweaks to personnel usage, such as playing Curry more, could be what the Eagles need to see their defense perform even better.
WHAT YOU MISSED
Jim Schwartz briefly forgot who Kirk Cousins was.
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Reviewing the defense from Sunday’s loss to the Lions.
The Eagles signed cornerback C.J. Smith to the 53-man roster as well as tight end Anthony Denham to the practice squad.
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Brandon Lee Gowton, John Stolnis, and Matt Dering preview the Eagles-Washington game on the latest episode of BGN Radio.
WHAT THEY’RE SAYING
Nelson Agholor is struggling to create separation, writes Andrew Kulp of CSN Philly.
Despite suffering his first NFL loss, Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz played well in Detroit this past Sunday. He played even better if you take away the passes intended for Nelson Agholor.
Wentz completed two of seven attempts targeted for Agholor against the Lions for 27 yards with an interception. When throwing the ball to literally anybody else, the rookie signal-caller was 23 of 26 for 211 yards and two touchdowns.
That’s a fairly large discrepancy.
By no means is one afternoon’s work a comprehensive sample size, although it’s not as if Agholor has an exhaustive body of work to fall back on either. Last season was a disappointment for the 20th-overall draft pick, and so far Year 2 hasn’t gone significantly better. He has 13 receptions for 147 yards and one touchdown through four games.
And while there is still time for Agholor to turn things around, excuses are beginning to wear thin. The simple fact of the matter is he didn’t get open on Sunday. There’s no other way to say it.
Look for Washington to exploit the aggressiveness from the Eagles defense, writes Les Bowen of the Daily News.
Washington is a little different – the Redskins’ running game is more inside-oriented, less concerned with getting to the edge – but the Eagles know they will see some of the same tactics every week now, especially if teams find a bit of success with them.
“Every team will put that in against us, because we get upfield,” defensive end Connor Barwin said. “We were just disciplined in our defense in the second half. We had some man-to-man, and if you play disciplined and cover your guy in man-to-man, you shouldn’t be able to run a screen.”
Defensive tackle Beau Allen said there is no great secret to stopping screens, traps and draws. “It’s just about having good awareness – really, more than anything, knowing that teams are going to try and do that to you. We know that.
“To run a trap, you have to pull a guard, so a guard will be light (in his stance), things like that. You can kind of get a feel for it, too, in-game. Usually, with plays like that if you stuff one – against the Lions, I think Nigel (Bradham) had a (tackle for a loss) on a screen, and then they didn’t run another one.”
“It ain’t gonna slow us down,” defensive tackle Fletcher Cox vowed. “Teams are gonna trap, they’re gonna run screens, that’s just trying to get us to slow down. I won’t slow down. I don’t think anyone else in the room will slow down. At some point, wheels start turning. We’ll see something in one of those traps, and they’ll be tackled for a loss.”
Doug Pederson meets with the media at 10:15.
Chris Jastrzembski contributed to this post.