Hey there BGN.
I'm currently working on a series analyzing "YouTube" videos of one or two of the NY Giants draft picks. I also figured I wanted to learn more about the enemy, so I decided to do a short film study on one of the Eagles' draft picks. I wanted to do this a bit earlier, but alas, finals got in the way.
I don't pretend to be an expert scout, hence the "Amateur Hour" in the title, but just wanted to provide my thoughts in a way where my thoughts and ideas about what I look for in prospects is transparent and easy to analyze.
First, I'd like to go over what I look for in a defensive end over the course of a single play.
At pre-snap, what I look for in a pass rusher, of course, when evaluating as a DE is whether or not he's got his hand in the dirt. That's pretty obvious. Next, I look to see how far off the player is from the opposing offensive linemen. The infamous Wide-9 is classic for leaving defenders at least 3 feet lateral to the opposing tackle. The Giants will play their ends no more than 1 or 2 feet on a regular down, but will move to that wide-9 position on obvious passing situations. The Eagles like to use the wide-9 a bit more, so they will be looking for speedier players that have greater bendability. They'll value speed moreso than strength.
I also look for the bend in the knees pre-snap. If the player's arse is too far up, he might not have that explosive first step that we all love. If he's bent over too much, he loses leverage. Ideally, you want that balance where the player is like that "coiled spring" ready to explode.
INITIAL BURST to FIRST CONTACT
The first step is crucial. It's the key to the rest of the play. What it essentially means is the timing and explosion off the snap to get to a certain spot and beat the offensive tackle to that spot. This sets you up in a ton of ways. For one, you can decide whether to go outside or inside and have the OT guess, and two, if you are fast enough, you can avoid the offensive tackle's punch entirely and get a clear lane to the QB. A great example is my very own Osi Umenyiora or your very own Jason Babin, both of whom have the fastest first step in the game today. They made their living on basically this first step where he times the snap so well, that he looks like he's offside a lot of the time. This allows him to bend around the OT and get that strip sack.
When (if) the offensive lineman hits you with that punch, I look for any bounce backwards. That lets me know what sort of base and power the defensive end has. Obviously, minimal knockback is preferred.
FIRST CONTACT to the END OF THE PLAY
First thing first, I look to see if the player has his head up and recognizes whether its a run play or a pass play. They'll often start out pass rushing, or sit back in run defense/pass coverage, but that's just based on the play call. I want to see if they can adjust on the fly and close in on the running back.
If they are going to continue pass rushing, I'd like to see if they are a natural RDE or LDE. An RDE in our system is the prototype speed guy that goes up against the left tackle. By this point in the play, its all about gaining leverage. Speed rushers need to be flexible because they usually aren't strong enough to push through the tackle's block. One thing I look for when they are on the tackle's outside shoulder is the angle made between their legs and the ground. The lower the angle, the better, because that means they can take a sharper cut to the QB, and the lower they are, the more difficult it is for the tackle to get their hands on the player. That bend will give the rusher the upperhand, and if he can do that consistently, it bodes quite well for the player in the future.
If you've got an LDE, you've got your power rusher. They gain leverage by physically manhandling the tackle. They make ample use of the bullrush and then try and transition that into a swim or rip move. They willfully engage in block, and they twist and push the tackle to get by them. I look for their waste and hips. If they can twist the hips fluidly while not getting pushed back, it bodes quite well for the player in the future.
For both types, another aspect to look at is hand movement. When they get engaged with the offensive line, you want to see active hands. By that, I mean, look to see if they are fighting off the engaged blocker. Power rushers will try and take on the hands, get into the shoulder pads, push forward while driving the legs, and either rip inside or outside. Speed rushers can use the hands to get enough traction to pull of a spin move, or to simply fight off any wandering hands as they try and bend around the tackle. This is precisely why arm length matters.
Finally, what I look to see is motor plays. By that, I mean, do they continue to try and navigate the wash to get to the QB if their initial foray fails? If the running back gets by them, do they hustle up field to try and get to the play? Basically, just want to see hustle and work, and see it on a consistent basis. That's what separates guys like Trent Cole or Justin Tuck from guys like Albert Haynesworth.
Now, let's take a look at Vinny Curry.
Ht: 6-2' Wt: 262 lbs 40: 4.69 Bench: 28 Vert: 35"
Vinny Curry vs West Virginia 2011 (via JMPasq)
0:00-0:10 - We see Curry coming in as a pure pass rusher. He gets a good jump off the snap, diagnoses the run play. Gets past the running back, opening up a lane, but we can see great recovery speed to change direction and track down the runner.
0:12-0:26 - Curry is a little late off the snap, did not time it well. That allows the offensive tackle to get in his stance. However, he makes up for it with an awesome rip move that lets him get to the inside shoulder and push through. He gets a pressure and QB hit on Geno Smith. Poor start for Curry, but great finish.
0:27-0:35 - Curry gets a nice break on his ball, but he accelerates right into the tackle. He cannot disengage, though he does a great job of not giving up leverage and bullrushing the tackle backwards. Keeps his center of gravity low, and keeps the legs moving. He doesn't manage to get any pressure on the quarterback however, because he didn't add any pass rush moves to try and get away.
0:36-0:46 - Good jump off the snap, gets past the tackle who was late in turning his body towards Curry. He shows good recognition on the screen into the flat. His ability to turn and close is impressive in this play, as is his strength. Though the runner was able to get good yardage on the play, he took him down with basically one hand, and prevented the first down.
0:47-0:55 - A great play by Curry here that won't stand out on the stat sheet. He gets a magnificent jump off the snap, engages the blocker and fills up a potential hole for the running back, forcing him to re-direct and letting his teammates close in for the tackle.
0:56-1:03 - Curry is slow to get off the LOS. He recognizes the run play, but the blocker is able to get a hit on him, and he seem sluggish and doesn't take a good angle towards the runner. Sort of gives up when he sees others closing in. Not one of his finest plays in this game.
1:04-1:13 - Curry lines up as an end in a 3 man front. He flows inside trying to collapse the pocket versus an anticipatory run play. He is able to successfully shed a blocker and get his mitts on the running back for a minimal gain.
1:14-1:21 - He seems a bit slower off the snap again, allows the tackles to get settled. He tries juking out the blockers but is unsuccessful. This is one play where I feel like Curry would be better off as a 3-4 OLB. The ball is out in about 2.5 seconds, so this approach did not work.
1:22-1:30 - Curry gets an incredible break off the ball, he keeps his stance low, and shows great bendability to curve around the offensive tackle. Unfortunately, he overextends just a tad, and loses his footing and falls. That allows Smith to step up and get yardage in the void. Curry showed flashes of brilliance in this play, he was Osi or Babin like in the way he moved.
1:31-1:37 - Has another great jump off the ball. He gets held up by a great chip block by the running back. Once again, the QB gets rid of the ball in less than 3 secs, so there was not much of a chance here. Curry definitely looked like that "coiled spring" we discussed above.
1:38-1:44 - Curry got a free release to the quarterback, he was a bit hesitant and didn't know if it was a run or pass. That hesitation gave the QB enough time to find the open man. Not much can be taken from this play.
1:45-2:02 - He gets a great jump and is probably the victim of a blatant hold. Tries a swim move to the inside, but cannot disengage because the offensive tackle is grabbing him inside his shoulder pads. Great play by Curry here.
2:03-2:08 - Tries a bullrush and is successful. One thing I've been noticing about Curry is that you never see him get stood up, he always stays low and that's important. Unfortunately, he takes himself out of the play by getting that far upfield.
2:09-2:21 - Similar to the previous play, Curry uses a bullrush and almost gets to Smith. Gets a pressure by way of a hurry. Shows good strength by driving the offensive tackle backwards. Can't disengage well enough to seal the deal, but Geno Smith is exceptionally athletic, so its no fault of Curry's. Nice play.
2:22-2:40 - Again, Curry has decent explosion off the line. And once again, tries the bullrush. And, also again, he's successful. Adds another hurry, but he needs to expand his pass rush repotoire. Once again, he can't disengage and Smith is able to get away.
2:41-2:47 - Playing in a 3 man front again, he gets initially double-teamed by two run blockers at first. He spins out and maintains his gap, while some friends make the tackle.
2:48-2:59 - Shows good explosion off the line, and once again, is able to drive back the opposing OL. He gets a little bit upright here, but he makes a move inside that would've clearly resulted in a sack had he not been held AGAIN. There have been a couple plays where he's overmatched the offensive line, and the only way they can counter is via a hold.
3:00-3:07 - Free release to the QB, but recognizes a quick pass to the flats and jumps to try and deflect it. Doesn't work. This play is neither here nor there.
3:08-3:18 - He's slow off the line. That's a bit troubling but makes up for it by literally manhandling the OL, throwing him off and to the ground. Basically has a sack of Smith, who somehow makes an incredible play. He once again shows of his brute strength here. Great play.
3:19-3:27 - Tries to take an inside stunt to get to the quarterback. He's trying to navigate the wash and is somewhat successful. Shows decent vision and eventually closes in.
3:28 -3:36 - Here, he shows great burst, and good short area agility. He makes a subtle fake and tries to take the outside. He gets over run on the play and gets taken out.
Final Thoughts: Based on this study, along with a few others, I'm not as high on Curry as I am some of the talents that went before him. That being said, I think he was good value where the Eagles got him. He showed an inconsistent burst off the snap. That first step is incredibly important, especially when you consider the scheme that the Eagles use. Jason Babin and Trent Cole have basically made their livings on that incredible initial quickness to provide an instant leverage advantage. There have been multiple instances in the above video where Curry has flashed that same great speed off the snap (1:22, 1:31, 1:45), but he's been hot and cold. If he's going to be successful, he needs to become more consistent.
Another aspect of his game he needs to work on is his array of pass rush moves. He's got a great bullrush, but against some of the stronger OTs at the next level, it won't work. He's got a decent rip move that allows him to get to the inside (0:12), but that could be refined. When he lands his punch and rip, he's a little sluggish, and doesn't get full extension when he's waving his arms. That would explain why he has trouble disengaging. He needs to get full extension to push away the tackles. This isn't huge because not many players are very refined coming out of college, and the Eagles obviously have great coaches for the DL, so as long as he works on it, he should be good.
A positive that I took out of this was Curry's center of gravity. He always stayed low, never really got upright and stood up. That's a definite positive when it comes to not only pass rushing, but run defense. It gives him the flexibility to move to his left or right, and allows his strength (another positive I noted) to push through blocks. He also has a high motor, I only saw one instance where he sort of gave up on the play (0:56), but he was in on most tackles and definitely impacted each play. That's what good players do.
You can easily see why people keep calling Curry tailor-made for the Wide-9. He's fast and has underrated power. He stays low and understands leverage. However, in order to be truly successful, to be the next Cliff Avril, as is the popular comparison, he needs to maintain a level of consistency with his first step. He needs to refine his game, learn new techniques, and diagnose plays a tad bit faster. However, he's most definitely got potential.