- Matt Williamson, ESPN.com
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A weekly look at a player whose performance must improve in 2011.
With the fourth overall pick in the 2009 draft, the Seahawks selected Aaron Curry. If a team uses such a high draft pick on a linebacker, the return has to be much greater than what Curry has provided thus far. Seattle needs Curry to be great.
Curry is immensely talented. He has the size, strength, speed and explosiveness to excel at any linebacker position in any scheme. But he is a strongside linebacker in Seattle's system -- not a featured role. Strongside linebackers are about as easy to find as any position on the field, and they often are not highlighted like outside LBs in a 3-4, weakside LBs in the 4-3 or interior second-level defenders. So, Curry's situation and Seattle's scheme certainly has had something to do with his somewhat disappointing production. The Seahawks bear some blame for not allowing him to find his niche.
Curry's ability approaches that of Patrick Willis, but he obviously has not approached Willis' accomplishments. Curry is only 25, though. Coming out of Wake Forest, he was considered an extremely safe prospect who could enter the league and have an immediate impact. But his rookie season was very rocky. He's played in 30 of 32 possible regular-season games, but he just hasn't been the true impact player that his abilities would indicate.
Even though he does generally line up on the strong side, you would think that Curry could flourish as a pass-rusher from that spot or even with his hand on the ground on throwing downs. He certainly has the physical makeup to control that portion of the field against the run. And Curry has the fluid hips, agility and speed that you look for to cover a tight end or running back in man coverage or be a forceful player as a zone defender. But Curry has just 134 tackles, 5.5 sacks and has not recovered a fumble or had an interception over that stretch.
Curry's recognition skills are only average at this point, but I will concede that they are improving, especially as a run defender. He can struggle to get off blocks and he isn't an especially sure tackler in the open field, but he has improved noticeably against the run. All in all, after two seasons, I am fine with his abilities in the run game, although I would like to see him create more big plays and show up more as a pursuit player.
But like many young linebackers, he isn't a natural in the pass game at this level. That isn't to say that he can't do it or never will never be an effective player in this phase. But Seattle needs much more from Curry. As a pass-rusher, he needs to develop more of an arsenal. The Seahawks did use him in a very unorthodox way at times as an interior pass-rusher with his hand on the ground. That experiment failed.
He also takes too many penalties and will miss assignments. Curry needs to improve his mental approach to the game. He doesn't mirror routes especially well when playing man coverage. In zone, he too often looks lost and unaware. Curry's overall consistency also could be improved. Curry does log a lot of snaps for Seattle, but if he remains a liability in the passing game, that count could dwindle.
These things might improve in his third season, but thus far, it is tough to argue that Curry has been worth his draft slot. If Curry were a second-round pick or even a late first-rounder, there wouldn't be any reason to be down on him. But only three players went ahead of Curry in 2009 and the investment in him is great.
Scouts Inc. watches games, breaks down film and studies football from all angles for ESPN.com. Follow Matt Williamson on Twitter @WilliamsonNFL
9hDoug Clawson, ESPN Stats & Information