I got word today that K.J. Wright, and not Aaron Curry, will start at strong side linebacker for the Seahawks this week. This is a move that will likely generate a lot stronger feelings that it really warrants, but that’s ok. Personally, I think this makes the defense slightly better, but that’s just me.
I’m not one of the Curry haters that seem to fill the Seahawks blogosphere these days. It isn’t his fault that an inept GM drafted him 4th overall instead of selecting any number of better players. I do, though, think that it is at least partially his fault that he didn’t develop into a player that is better than what he currently is.
Curry is big. He’s strong. He’s fast. For a linebacker, he’s a freakish athlete. Actually, lets drop the “for a linebacker” qualifier. The dude is simply a freakish athlete. What he isn’t is a natural football player. He isn’t a sure tackler. He doesn’t cover TEs and RBs nearly as well as he should be able to. He gets caught out of position way too often.
That doesn’t mean he is useless on the field. Against the run, Curry could set the edge as well as anyone in the NFL. Outside running plays to his side of the field just aren’t a good idea. There isn’t a TE in the game that can block him effectively and spring the runner around the corner. Even though he doesn’t make a lot of tackles, Curry is a very good run defender.
It’s hard to not look at Curry as being the anti-Lofa Tatupu. Lofa was thought to be too small and too slow for the NFL (even before all the knee injuries). He was a pro-bowler because he was a very smart, instinctual player. He was a textbook form tackler. He could also cover most TEs and RBs, though he did need help with the more athletic ones.
Lofa got the most out of his comparatively little athleticism. Curry on the other hand, seems to always find new and creative ways to get very little out of his incredible athleticism. Curry and Tatupu should be exhibits A and B for Seahawk fans on why the draft combine numbers are overrated.
I’m not trying to simply categorize all NFL players into these 2 arch-types. Obviously, you want all the players on your roster to be as big, strong and fast as possible, but they must also be good football players, not just good athletes. You can’t have too many Lofa Tatupu-esk players, or you end up with the 5-11 Seahawks of the Jim Mora “era.” Ultimately, what you want when building a roster are players with a combination of Curry’s athleticism and Tatupu’s instincts. Unfortunately, those are the extremely rare Ray Lewis, Demarcus Ware types.
In K.J. Wright, the Seahawks get a more all-around player. Wright can cover in the passing game better than Curry. He is also better at blitzing and getting to the quarterback. It remains to be seen if he’s a better tackler, and I’ll tell you right now that he won’t be as good at setting the edge and forcing running plays up inside where Hawthorne and company can make plays.
Really, what this move does is make the Seattle defense more versatile. Before, only Hill was a threat to blitz as Curry’s lack of versatility dictated that he had to drop into coverage. Now, the blitz can come from either side, which is more difficult for the other team to account for. That should lead to a better pass rush.