A lot of casual Eagles fans are dismayed at the release of hometown favorite DE Vinny Curry. I for one will miss Merrill Reese’s calling of his name during radio broadcasts—it always came out “Vinny CARRY” from Merrill’s unmistakable southeast Pennsylvania dialect pronunciation. But Curry became the victim of his own big-bucks contract. “Boy, you’re gonna CARRY that weight…”
Anyway, dollars-to-production analysis wins every time.
But Fran Duffy, he of the Eagles Eye scouting department at PE.com, says worry not about Curry or lack thereof. Start with the acquisition of Michael Bennett from Seattle:
“I’m very excited to see how he fits in with this disruptive Eagles defensive front. The veteran played over 900 snaps a year ago for the Seahawks, all while dealing with a foot injury. When I watch him and anticipate how he’s going to look in the structure of the Eagles’ defensive scheme, all I can do is smile. Bennett is a relentless player with a great motor. He’s naturally powerful, is wired into the snap count (giving him a great jump off the ball), and can attack the run and pass equally well. His versatility will absolutely be put to good use in Jim Schwartz’s defense, as he’s got the ability to rush both outside and inside.”
“I expect that Bennett will get plenty of reps on the inside as a part of the Eagles’ subpackages. Lining him up inside next to Fletcher Cox, with a potential pairing of Brandon Graham and Derek Barnett on the outside, is going to be lethal when the other team is faced with a “must pass” situation. Whether he’s winning with size and strength or quickness and flexibility, he is tough to block.”
“Bennett isn’t just a force as a pass rusher, however, because he gets after it in the run game as well. Whether he’s winning off the ball with his quickness and knifing into the backfield or exploding into a lineman’s pads and jolting him backward at the point of attack, he can make plays when the run is coming in his direction. When the run is going away from him, he’s just as productive, putting his high motor on display on a weekly basis.”
What about the cornerback the Eagles acquired from Carolina in the Torrey Smith trade, Daryl Worley, the former mid-round pick from West Virginia who was a rookie starter in 2016 and was in and out of the lineup in 2017?
“Watching Worley at West Virginia, he was a bit up and down, but his flashes were extremely impressive. He’s got legitimate size at the corner spot, can come downhill and finish as a tackler at a high level, and his ball skills are really good. He made some outstanding interceptions in college in all areas of the field. For that reason, it wasn’t a surprise to see those ball skills show up during his time in Carolina.”
“Whether he’s in-phase (hip-to-hip with the receiver with his eyes on the football) or out-of-phase (in catch-up mode on a vertical route with his eyes on his man), Worley has a knack for making a play on the football. ”
“When he’s in off coverage, which he did a lot of in college and in Carolina this year, Worley shows a pretty good ability to read route breaks and jump throws on the outside. He’s not the most explosive athlete, but he plays faster than he times on a stopwatch because of his eyes and his instincts.”
Early on Wednesday, the team agreed to terms with linebacker Nigel Bradham, who was an integral part of the Super Bowl season. Three-down linebackers are not easy to find in free agency or the draft, so being able to retain Bradham’s services was huge for this defense and this team.
But Duffy says picking up LB Corey Nelson from Denver is an equally important acquisition:
“A young, athletic player with sideline-to-sideline range, Nelson was a key part of Denver’s subpackage unit two years ago under Wade Phillips. He was expecting a bigger role in 2017, but an injury derailed his season. On film, his athleticism pops off the film, and you can see why the Eagles were excited to add him to the fold.”
“A versatile coverage player and aggressive run defender, Nelson has three-down potential (even if he doesn’t fit that role right away), with the ability to be an explosive part of the Eagles’ special teams units. I’m excited to see how he fits in with the current linebackers on the roster.”
Then there is the addition of veteran DT Haloti Ngata to the interior defensive line rotation:
“He has experience, a proven track record, and enough gas in his tank to help as a situational tackle who can stop the run and collapse the pocket. At one time, Ngata was the most dominating defensive tackle in the game. Even last year with Detroit, with whom he played five games before suffering a season-ending elbow injury, the Lions allowed just 75 yards rushing per game with Ngata active and 125 yards per game with Ngata sidelined.”
Duffy believes Ngata will more than offset the loss of fan favorite Beau Allen, who signed a sweet little deal with Tampa Bay.
“Ngata will take some of the reps that Beau Allen played in 2017 – Allen played 41 percent of the defensive snaps, a percentage increased by playing 50 snaps in Week 3 against the Giants when Fletcher Cox was injured and 41 in the regular-season finale against Dallas – at the very least. A five-time Pro Bowl player, Ngata chose the Eagles because he has a chance to contribute to one great defensive line.”
“Why not? The defensive line is stacked and I just couldn’t be more excited to play with another dominant defensive tackle in Cox and Timmy [Jernigan] and Destiny [Vaeao] and the D-ends,” Ngata said. “I just got so excited when the Eagles came calling. I’m like, ‘No way. Are you serious? The Eagles want me to play for them? They already have a stacked defensive line and then they trade for Michael Bennett?’ Yeah, let’s go.
“I’m just happy to be a part of it.”
Fran Duffy is the producer of “Eagles Game Plan” which can be seen on Saturdays during the season. You can view his selected film clips of the newest Eagles defenders here. Be sure to also check out the “Eagle Eye In The Sky” podcast on the Philadelphia Eagles podcast channel on iTunes. Prior to joining the Eagles in 2011, Duffy was the head video coordinator for the Temple University Football team under former head coach Al Golden. In that role, he spent thousands of hours shooting, logging and assisting with the breakdown of the All-22 film from the team’s games, practices and opponents