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Eagles are experimenting with Vinny Curry at outside linebacker

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Can the Eagles get him on the field more often?

Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Vinny Curry isn't just one of the best pass rushers on the Eagles' roster. He might be one of the best in the NFL.

Despite only playing 32% of Philadelphia's defensive snaps in 2014, he finished with nine sacks, which ranked tied for second among 3-4 defensive ends last season. For comparison, New York Jets defensive lineman Sheldon Richardson had the amount of sacks in 438 more snaps played. It's hard not to think about what Curry could do if he saw the field more often.

The problem, however, is that Curry likely won't be starting any time soon. Evidence suggest the Eagles believe he's not an ideal starter for Philadelphia's two-gap 3-4 defense. Curry is also stuck behind two good players at defensive end: Fletcher Cox and Cedric Thornton. Curry rotates with the latter since Thornton's pass rush is lacking, but it's Thornton's strong efforts as a run defender which keep him as the lead guy.

It's not all bad news for Curry, however. According to Chip Kelly, the Eagles are trying to get more creative with his role. Curry is apparently getting some looks as an outside linebacker.

"He's playing a little bit of outside, a little bit of inside," Kelly said during his Wednesday press conference. "I think he's expanded his role in terms of where we can deploy him, but I see that happening, yeah."

It's interesting the Eagles are used Curry as an outside linebacker because they originally had the former 4-3 defensive end convert to 3-4 defensive end. Other former 4-3 defensive ends on the Eagles roster, such as Brandon Graham, were converted from end to 3-4 outside linebacker.

After Wednesday's practice, Curry explained that he's now learning both the JACK and PREDATOR linebacker positions.

"Both of the linebacker roles," he said. "Different packages. They put me all over the field. Just to help my best attribute. To help the team out."

"I’ve been getting a lot of work. It’s also a lot of studying. Just watching guys that are out there, like Connor [Barwin] and Brandon Graham. And still try to master my craft at the defensive end position."

One of the concerns with Curry playing the outside linebacker spot is his (potential lack of) coverage ability. One reporter asked if he's running down the field with wide receivers now.

"Receivers run down the field with me!" Curry joked. "Sike, I’m just kidding, I’m just kidding.  But no, like I said, I can rush the passer. I got speed. So we’re just trying to find a way for me to help the team out the best way I can."

"It ain’t like I’m going man to man. Let’s not jump out the window there. But at the end of the day, spot dropping is … we always had that in the plan. It’s a little different."

Curry also suggested his time at outside linebacker isn't completely new.

"We had certain packages last year — you guys might not have really noticed it — but there were plays last year where I’m at outside linebacker. I actually got more than half of my sacks from the outside. It’s nothing really too new."

He even went on to explain that he's not the only defensive lineman being experimented with on the outside.

"It’s just to move all of us around," Curry said. "It’s just not me moving to different positions. It’s all the guys moving to different positions. It’s not like I’m singled out, saying 'Vinny Curry go there, Vinny go there.’ Got the whole crew moving around, trying to get their feet wet in different spots."

Adding experience at outside linebacker could certainly help Curry get on the field more as a rotational player, but the Eagles already have a strong group of starting outside linebackers with Barwin and Graham.

Curry will be a free agent following the 2015 season. He might eventually latch on with a one-gap 4-3 team that best uses his skill set. For now, he's a member of the Eagles and they're trying to find more ways to get him on the field.