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How Does Aaron Curry Fit with the New York Giants Defense?

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How Does Aaron Curry Fit with the New York Giants Defense?
Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images

Aaron Curry is a former top-five overall pick who's still scratching and clawing to live up to his draft expectations heading into his fifth professional season on his third team. 

In short, he's been a bust to start his career. 

But the linebacker-needy New York Giants decided the athletic, yet underwhelming Curry was worth the risk—a rather low one at that—after he was released by the Oakland Raiders this offseason. 

With an open competition at a few of the linebacker positions, the former Wake Forest star, who dealt with knee injuries during the 2012 campaign, has a legitimate shot to carve out a niche on the G-Men's defense. 

How does Curry fit in? 

 

Giants Depth Chart

According to the highly respected OurLads.com, a site that updates the depth charts of NFL teams, Curry is listed as the Giants' backup strong-side linebacker behind Keith Rivers—another defender who's looking to revitalize his similarly disappointing career. 

Free-agent acquisition Dan Connor is penciled in as the middle linebacker, and the young but productive Jacquian Williams is slotted at weak-side linebacker. 

USA TODAY Sports

Behind Curry at SLB is Etienne Sabino, an undrafted free agent out of Ohio State who struggled during his stay in Columbus despite being a prized high school recruit. 

Though Mark Herzlich is listed as Connor's backup in the middle, he has some experience on the strong side, so he could provide more competition for Curry. 

At the very least, Curry will be given a fantastic opportunity to win a backup role behind Rivers. 

With the variety of four- and five-receiver spread formations surfacing in the NFL, there is less of a concrete distinction at the three traditional 4-3 linebacker positions. But Curry was drafted to be the more aggressive, downhill strong-side linebacker; that's where he played in Seattle with the Seahawks and in Oakland with the Raiders. 

 

Strengths and Weaknesses

Bleacher Report's NFC West Lead Blogger Tyson Langland wrote the following to me about Curry via Twitter: 

Curry's an able and willing run defender. His pass-rush skills need a lot of work. Lacks initial burst off-the snap. He’s actually above average in coverage for short periods of time. He has elite size and strength, but his ultimate demise has been his knees. I think if he could have stayed healthy he would have turned into a takeo spikes type. 

Curry is only 27, and if his knees are indeed fully recovered, he could rediscover some of the quick-twitch athleticism that vaulted him so high in the 2009 draft. 

Remember, though, he appeared in only two games for the Raiders last season. 

Rich Schultz/Getty Images

The Giants' defensive scheme relies heavily on the disruptive nature of their defensive line—a unit that collectively regressed in 2012. However, when Jason Pierre-Paul, Justin Tuck and Co. are playing well, New York's linebackers are provided tremendous freedom to make plays near the line of scrimmage. 

The likes of Antonio Pierce, Michael Boley, Mathias Kiwanuka and Chase Blackburn were never considered elite linebackers, but the Giants always got considerable production out of them playing behind an assortment of talent on the defensive line. 

While he was clearly inconsistent in Seattle and Oakland, Curry can be effective with the proper talent around him. 

Here's a screen play he blew up against the San Diego Chargers in 2011. At the snap, Curry took a moment to decipher the direction of the play:

Courtesy: NFL Game Rewind

But when he recognized the screen to Ryan Mathews, he quickly sifted through traffic and executed a form tackle which resulted in a one-yard loss:

Courtesy: NFL Game Rewind
Courtesy: NFL Game Rewind

Nice work. 

 

Conclusion

It's difficult to say that Rivers is distinctly better than Curry at this point, as the two have similar skill sets and have dealt with comparable struggles at the NFL level. 

Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

If his knees are recuperated, and if the Giants' defensive line returns to its typical form in 2013, Perry Fewell can tap into all of Curry's potential as an attacking outside linebacker who plays on run downs and occasionally drifts into coverage. 

Will he emerge as a Pro Bowler in New York? 

Probably not.

But we've seen mediocre-to-slightly-above-average linebackers produce with the G-Men over last five years, and Curry could be next in line to do so.

 

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