In a rare and surprising upset, work has trumped football this week. So when I grabbed my Seattle Times off the driveway this morning and read that Aaron Curry had been bumped to the 2nd team defense, my jaw dropped. Of course, asking HawkBloggerWife, "Can you believe what happened to Curry?" would just result in some discussion about basmati rice and naan. Most writers seem to be focusing on Curry's potential demotion, but this may be more about what is right with Wright than what is wrong with Curry.
Wright is 6'4" 246 lbs, making him two inches taller and roughly 10 lbs lighter than Curry. He also boasts an 80-inch wingspan that helps him press blockers off him and make passes near him tougher to complete. This potential for displacing Curry was seen as early as the day he was drafted. Wright's ability to pick-up the defense and play middle linebacker was a significant part of why the Seahawks felt comfortable approaching Lofa Tatupu about restructuring his contract, according to a source close to the Seahawks. The team got to see Wright play in the middle sooner than they would have liked during week one, when starter David Hawthorne was out with an injury. He played an assignment-correct game, and finished with five tackles.
Being in the right place at the right time has been harder for Curry. He likes to make big plays, and can struggle to make the right read and take the right angle. Curry's biggest challenges have been tackling in space and pass coverage. Both of these Curry weaknesses are strengths for Wright. There were multiple times in the pre-season where Wright was one-on-one with a receiver or running back in space, and he made the tackle each time. Folks, that is not easy. Chad Brown was possibly the best open-field tackler in Seahawks history, and few have really come close. Leroy Hill is pretty darn good in those situations, but Wright has the potential to be better.
Wright was originally talked about as a LEO back-up when he was drafted. That is the Chris Clemons, full-time pass rush, defensive end role. The fact that he was considered there, found his way to middle linebacker and now back to SAM shows just how broad his skill set is. His best NFL comparable may be Julian Peterson, who was 6'3" 240 lbs and had a similar wingspan. Wright has not been put in a position to show his pass rush ability yet, and that was a big part of Peterson's game.
Curry deserves credit for handling this with class thus far, and admitting to some mistakes in his play last week. Growing as a man absolutely has a positive effect on the quality of your work, and Curry has shown some signs of maturity this season. This blog has repeatedly shown that linebackers tend to explode onto the NFL scene. They don't grow into greatness the way quarterbacks or wide receivers do. Curry is unlikely to be a great NFL linebacker, but he could be a much better player than he is here. Expect him to wind up in a 3-4 system somewhere as an inside linebacker. He always seemed like the type of player that would thrive with the Steelers, and it is looking increasingly likely he will wearing some other team's uniform next year.
One scenario worth watching is whether the team moves Curry to either middle or weakside linebacker now that he is running with the second unit. The team likes Malcolm Smith at WILL, and is much more likely to swing Wright back to middle if Hawthorne went down, but taking the spotlight off Curry gives them an opportunity to experiment more with him.
It is also possible the coaches will start Curry on Sunday, and that this week was a final warning shot. Either way, there is another reason to watch the Seahawks defense on Sunday.