Vinny Curry

Vinny Curry: 'Turn the tape on this year and you know what's up'

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Vinny Curry: 'Turn the tape on this year and you know what's up'

Eagles defensive end Vinny Curry has two main goals. First, is to help the Eagles win. 

Second? 

"My second goal is, when you turn the tape on," Curry said, "you're going to see 75 on there, flashing."

He's accomplishing both of those goals in 2017. 

The Eagles have an incredibly talented defensive line, but Curry isn't the player grabbing headlines. Brandon Graham leads the team in sacks and has been its most disruptive player. Fletcher Cox is on his way back to the Pro Bowl. Tim Jernigan came in a trade and already got paid. Chris Long has brought veteran leadership and has made news for his charity work off the field. And Derek Barnett is the exciting first-round pick. 

Curry? It can be easy to forget about him. 

But Curry is quietly putting together a great season. 

"He's had a tremendous year for us," defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz said. "He's played with power. He's played the run extremely well. He's done his job, and I think that's the greatest compliment I can give a player. He does his job. He's there when we need him. ... He's just been steady and consistent the whole year. Plays with toughness. He brings a physical edge to us, and he's done his job when he's called upon, and like I said, I think that's the greatest compliment you can give a player."

Through 11 games, Curry has three sacks, which isn't great, but it's also more than he had in 16 games last season. And his production shouldn't be judged by sacks alone. That would be unfair. Curry also has eight quarterback hits, 16 quarterback hurries and is tied for the team lead with seven tackles for loss. 

"He's done a lot," Graham said. "He comes in focused every day, ready to go. I think he's gotten better in Year 2 (in the defense), as far as what they ask him to do. And now he's just making plays. Now, it's all about getting better each week." 

Curry has also proven to be a huge run-stuffer for an Eagles' defense that is the best run-stuffing team in the league. 

Some think Curry, 29, has gotten better against the run, but he doesn't think so. 

"You never got to see me play the run game," Curry said. "That's an illusion that people were led to believe. People never saw me play the run game. I came in on third downs. Right now, I'm playing first and second downs now and you can see it. I'm just trying to do my job to the best of my ability and not let the guys down on my part."

In 2016, Curry was the first defensive end off the bench after Graham and Connor Barwin. The Eagles actually tried to give Curry the chance to win a starting gig, but Graham got in there and played so well they couldn't take him off the field. 

During last season, Curry battled through injuries, including an MCL sprain, and played just 43 percent of the Eagles' defensive snaps. 

Curry's disappointing 2016 season came sandwiched between his signing a $46.25 million extension and the Eagles' bringing in Long and Barnett this offseason. Curry didn't pay it any mind though. 

"You've been around me a long time," Curry said. "Every year there's another story out about Vinny and something else. You know how it goes. I don't really get into none of that. I just come in and do my job. If last year, people were judging me on that, then shame on them. You feel me? Turn the tape on this year and you know what's up."

Curry, who was a second-round pick in 2012, had never started an NFL game before this season. He has started all 11 games this season as the Eagles have jumped out to a 10-1 record. Perhaps more importantly, Curry is playing a career-high 54 percent of the defense's snaps. 

In a way, Curry's role has flipped this season. He's playing more first and second downs, where he used to come in as a third-down specialist. Curry said it's just important for his unit to check their egos, something he said isn't difficult at all, especially when the team is 10-1. 

These days, Curry gets his playing time cut because the Eagles need to get Barnett into the game. The first-round pick already has 4½ sacks this season. It's a lot easier for Curry to accept the rotation because of how well Barnett is playing. 

"I ain't mad for five minutes," Curry said. "That man can play." 

But so can Curry. And he's proving it again this season. 

5 key matchups Eagles need to win to beat Cowboys

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5 key matchups Eagles need to win to beat Cowboys

The Eagles didn't play last weekend but they still gained ground in the NFC East as all three teams lost. 

The Cowboys were one of them, falling to the Falcons 27-7 in Atlanta. 

But the Cowboys (5-4) will still be a tough test for the Eagles (8-1). This is a nationally televised Sunday night game down in Jerry's World. 

The Eagles are favored, but winning these matchups would go a long way in helping them get a win:

Cole Beasley vs. Patrick Robinson 
Beasley's numbers are way down this season. He has just 24 catches for 188 yards. The little shifty slot receiver is a tough matchup for Malcolm Jenkins, but Robinson seems much better equipped to shut him down in the slot. 

Remember, Beasley had a nine-catch 112-yard, two touchdown game against the Eagles in 2015. 

"[Beasley] looks exactly the same," Eagles DC Jim Schwartz said. "He's tough. He's a tough out. He's quick. He runs great routes. He's got speed to get down the field. I think that's one thing that's underestimated with him. He's a little bit sneaky, but he can get down the field too. " 

While it's easy to forget about Beasley on a team with Dez Bryant and Jason Witten and Ezekiel Elliott (when he's not suspended), Beasley has the ability to hurt teams. He's done it to the Eagles in the past. 

Jason Witten vs. Malcolm Jenkins 
Witten is 35 years old and he's not the Pro Bowl player he once was. But he still has 42 catches for 378 yards and three touchdowns this season, so the Eagles can't sleep on him. 

This season, the Eagles have given up some yards to tight ends — 47 catches for 500 yards and four touchdowns. Just nine teams have given up more yards to opposing tight ends. 

But this is a much more manageable matchup for Jenkins than covering the shifty Beasley. Jenkins means so much to the Eagles and this weekend will prove another reason why. 

Lane Johnson vs. Demarcus Lawrence 
Two weeks ago, Johnson did a great job against Von Miller when the Broncos were in town. Things don't get any easier for him this week. Now, he'll go against Lawrence, who leads in the NFL with 11 1/2 sacks in nine games. Lawrence has just one game this season without a sack — it came against Kansas City a couple weeks ago. 

When the Eagles elected to keep Johnson on the right side after Jason Peters' injury, this matchup against Lawrence was one of the reasons why. Miller, Lawrence and Khalil Mack were the names thrown out because they all typically line up on the right tackle. For most games, that's an advantage. Against the Eagles, it's a pretty clear disadvantage because Johnson has been playing at a Pro Bowl level. 

Zeke-less 'Boys vs. top run D
The Cowboys are without Elliott this week and that's an absolutely huge loss for them. Elliott will be back by the time the regular season finale comes around, but he won't play Sunday thanks to his six-game suspension that finally kicked in last weekend. 

Alfred Morris was once a two-time Pro Bowler in Washington but he's just simply not Elliott. He's actually averaging 6.8 yards per attempt after just 25 carries this season, but we'll see what his numbers look like after a few more weeks. 

This week, he'll have a really tough test against the Eagles, who have the best run defense in the NFL. They've given up just 66.4 yards per game on the ground. The Eagles are the first team to give up fewer than 600 yards on the ground through nine games since the 2010 Steelers. They're just the 11th team in NFL history to do it. 

And teams just aren't running against them anymore (see story). But if the Cowboys can't run, it would put a lot of pressure on Dak Prescott to carry the team, something he hasn't really been asked to do so far in his career. 

Zack Martin vs. Fletcher Cox 
Martin is one of the best offensive guards in football, but he actually gave up a sack last week. It was the first sack of the season he gave up after he gave up just two all last season and one in each of the two previous years. Martin has given up just five sacks in his four-year career, according to ProFootballFocus. 

It doesn't happen very often, but Cox is one of the best defensive tackles in the NFL. It's obviously not all about sacks, Cox can change a game by simply getting pressure. The problem is that Martin doesn't give up much pressure either — just five QB hurries and one QB hit all season. 

The interesting part of this matchup is that teams elect to double Cox so often, but with an All-Pro guard against him, the Cowboys are much more likely to leave him 1-on-1. This is a heavyweight bout. 

Bonus matchup
It looks like Cowboys left tackle Tyron Smith won't be able to play on Sunday night. That's a big deal because Chaz Green and Byron Bell were worked over against the Falcons — Bell will reportedly get the start on Sunday. Keep any eye on Vinny Curry and Derek Barnett in this game. They might have a chance to do some damage.

Derek Barnett has advantage most rookies don't

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Derek Barnett has advantage most rookies don't

A lot of NFL first-round picks are expected to show up on Day 1 and not only start but also become top contributors for their teams. 

Derek Barnett hasn't been met with those same expectations. 

While Brandon Graham and Vinny Curry have remained the Eagles' starters at defensive end — both have played at an extremely high level this season — Barnett has been able to rotate in and learn from them and the rest of his talented new teammates. 

It's a pretty good position for the rookie to be in. 

"We really never talked about it, to be honest with you," defensive line coach Chris Wilson said this week. "What he has done, these guys have really brought him under their wings. Guys like Fletcher (Cox), guys like Chris (Long). 

"And [Barnett is] a guy who you really want to help because he's hungry to learn and be a great player. He spends the time and effort to come in and these guys like that. They like being big brother and showing the tools and the tips that can help him. It's been fun to do that."

Having solid players in front of Barnett and being a part of what has become a dominant defense has certainly helped the rookie. There's no question about it. 

But Wilson didn't want the advantageous situation to take credit for Barnett's growing success. 

The rookie deserves credit of his own. 

 "It hasn't been, 'Hey let's put the rookie out there to put him out there,'" Wilson said. "He's been a productive player since we got him in here. He was productive in the preseason. He's beginning to be a really productive guy during the regular season. I have to give him credit as much as anything; he puts the work in." 

Barnett has played 261 of 578 possible snaps (45 percent) this season and has been on the field in some crucial situations. The coaching staff trusts him. 

When asked for the area in which Barnett has improved the most, Wilson didn't hesitate to say "in the run game." Wilson said that aspect can be difficult for a rookie because of the physicality at the NFL level. 

Barnett has been good against the run this season. He's had a chance to watch and learn from Graham and Curry, who are both also pretty stout against the run. That's helped. 

"Absolutely," Wilson said. "It's always good to see it in person and actually be able to physically touch it and watch these guys. The drill work, see how they work the drill work, to see how they go in and study the tape of the run game and things to look for in the run game. That's been big for us. He's been able to sit down with those guys and say 'OK, in this set, this is what we see and this is why we see it this way.' And that always benefits a young guy."

While Barnett has performed well against the run all year, his pass rush is starting to really come on. He has just 2½ sacks but has been getting more consistent pressure as the season has progressed. 

The 21-year-old rookie is looking more comfortable on the field with each game, but he's been comfortable in the defensive line meeting room from the beginning. 

Wilson said his meeting room is open and honest by design. Wilson cited an old saying: "You can't heal what you won't reveal."

"Derek's a very open guy," Wilson said. "It's like anything; it's the culture in the room. If you have something that you need to say, say it. You might get hammered for it, but you've got the freedom to give your opinion, that you're a part of the solution. Once he found that out, he was good and he knew to ask the right questions. That was the biggest thing I learned from this guy."