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Vinny Curry is a self-proclaimed man of mystery. Like many of his teammates, but maybe even more so, the second-year Eagles defensive lineman has no clue where he fits in the new scheme.
Curry, who played the traditional 4-3 defensive end role as a rookie last year, is a moving part, being yo-yoed from 3-4 defensive end to outside linebacker as the coaches experiment with their personnel to gauge where everyone best fits.
Athletes tend to embrace certainty with roles. It allows them to concentrate exclusively on their jobs and zero in on areas where they need to develop and improve, but Curry isn’t worried about the process dragging into the spring camps and later into training camp.
“Not really, man. If you just come out there and practice, you’re hyped for what they’re doing,” he said. “I’ll tell you one thing, everybody [on the coaching staff] is using their players to their strengths. They’re using Trent [Cole] to his strength, me to my strength. Everything is coming together slowly but surely.”
Curry, one of two second-round picks last season, played all over the map at Marshall but carved his niche as disruptive pass rusher who not only racked up 26 career sacks but also 49 tackles behind scrimmage and 10 forced fumbles. Plenty of 3-4 teams scouted him and worked him out before last year’s draft and several analysts believed that Curry could function equally as a rush linebacker in a 3-4 scheme or end in the 4-3.
For now, the Eagles are jockeying him between defensive end -- the five-technique opposite Fletcher Cox -- in the odd front, where they also have Cedric Thornton competing, and outside linebacker, where the team is also auditioning converted ends Brandon Graham and Cole.
The picture is as incomplete as it is muddled, but Curry has experiences in several different schemes going back to Marshall, where he said he played under five different defensive line coaches in five seasons.
“And they all ran different systems,” he said.
Defensive ends in the 3-4 tend to be stockier and heavier than Curry, who added 10-12 pounds in the offseason, a bulk-up that he said was imminent even before the Eagles had hired Chip Kelly.
Curry’s rookie season left a sour taste in his mouth and paved the foundation for an offseason mission of getting stronger and coming back in 2013 ready to showcase his true potential.
Despite an impressive training camp, Curry had become the victim of a numbers game as the Eagles marched into last year with Jason Babin and Cole anchoring the defensive end positions and rotating with Graham, Phillip Hunt and Darryl Tapp.
Curry spent the first 10 weeks of the season on the inactive list until the coaches finally unleashed him against the Panthers on Nov. 26 amid brewing controversy between former head coach Andy Reid, defensive line coach Jim Washburn and Babin. The team eventually cut Babin and fired Washburn, ridding itself of the controversial wide-nine defensive line scheme and opening the door for Curry to see more snaps in a traditional front.
Curry played in the final six games of the season but didn’t register a sack, fueling his decision to hit the weight room in the offseason.
“I was already planning on [gaining weight]. The whole offseason all I did was doing work,” said Curry, who reported to the offseason program on April 1 at 278 pounds, up from last year’s 265. “That’s all I did. I didn’t do nothing else. I didn’t go on no vacations. I feel like everything [sunk] in about how things didn’t go as planned last year. I just wanted to seek redemption and just come out here and just try to prove myself all over again.
“We’ve got a fresh new start and it’s not like I put on any bad weight and went crazy. It just so happens to be working for me. A lot of people will tell you, ‘Is he gonna lose any quickness?’ No, that’s not the case.”
Curry’s role might be uncertain, but he’s no stranger to the defensive coaching staff. Defensive line coach Jerry Azzinaro, also the assistant head coach, was Curry’s position coach for one year at Marshall. Linebackers coach Kevin Minter spent two years as Marshall’s defensive coordinator.
This is why Curry isn’t fretting his fate or wondering if the coaches are more inclined to favor players from different pedigrees. Even if the Eagles add defensive linemen or rush linebackers in next week’s draft, Curry doesn’t figure on being anywhere else for the season.
“Certain coaches stay in your life for a reason,” he said, “and it’s just crazy how we all ended up back together.”
Curry, who turns 25 in June, has his faith invested in coaches who already know his best assets.
“For me personally, no matter where I’m playing at, up or down, I just want to play,” he said. “Just throw me out there and let me just get back to doing me and doing what I love to do. Let me go back to be a playmaker like I know in my heart I’m capable of being.”