The true NFL off-season is almost upon us. Those of us who have effectively hibernated during this soul-sucking lockout can be excused if we feel the need to reacquaint ourselves with what exactly the 2010 Seahawks were. This is the third in a series of articles examining that team, and the implications for the imminent 2011 off-season.
Aaron Curry may be the most polarizing member of the Seahawks outside of Matt Hasselbeck. His high draft position and impressive athletic talent have led to extremely high expectations. Curry has come nowhere near meeting those expectations, which has led to some fans labeling him a bust.
Curry's 2009 season started strong, but tailed off precipitously in the second half. Some blamed it on Lofa Tatupu's injury, saying that Tatupu had helped put Curry in position to succeed with pre-snap alignments and tips. Pete Carroll joined the team and said the first thing he did was throw in tape of Curry to see how they could better utilize his abilities. This led to a scheme change where the team switched to an over front that allowed Curry to play on the line over the opposing Tight End. The results were mixed.
While Curry never reached the level of dominance fans were looking for, he became an impact player against the run. He set the edge by smacking Tight Ends and forcing running backs inside into the heart of the defense. This did not show up in stats, but was obvious to anyone watching for it. Carroll continued to try and use him as a pass rusher, with limited success. Curry lined up as a rush defensive end and even at defensive tackle at times. He ended the season with 3.5 sacks, and was eventually replaced with Raheem Brock and other players in passing downs.
He enjoyed career highs in tackles (73) and sacks (3.5), but saw his number of tackles for loss drop from 5 in 2009 to 4 in 2010. That tackle for loss total is not necessarily a bad number. Ray Lewis, for example, had the same amount in 2010. I couldn't find a site that had a league-wide ranking of tackles for loss, but most impact linebackers registered between 5 and 10 tackles for loss. A player like Lance Briggs had 7, and he's closer to the player Curry has the potential to be than a middle linebacker like Brian Urlacher who had 10. Briggs has never had more than 2.5 sacks in a season, but is a tackle machine and makes an impact with his hits forcing fumbles. Curry will never be the coverage linebacker that Briggs is, but he still could be a force against the run.
Effort has never been the question. Curry is a max effort guy. Instincts and football IQ are bigger questions. Curry is entering his third season. He will see his first real competition at the position this season with rookie KJ Wright lurking behind him. His supporters will tell you he's shown improvement, and just needs the right system and time to reach his potential. The reality is that linebacker is an instant impact position. Most great linebackers flash in their rookie season. Read this old article for more details on how often Pro Bowl linebackers hit their stride in year one. Expecting Pro Bowl production out of Curry is probably unrealistic at this point, but he can grow into a valuable part of a good defense, especially against the run.