This week we'll have a look at who Aaron Curry will be coming up against in his introduction to the NFL. In week one, the Seahawks entertain divison rivals St Louis looking to begin the 2009 season with a positive result. It'll also provide an early opportunity for Seattle's latest first round pick to be formally introduced to the 12th man.
The Seahawks will be looking to continue an eight game win streak against the Rams, stretching back to January 2005. Half of Seattle's wins last year came against St Louis including a 37-13 win at Qwest Field in week three.
It'll be an early opportunity for two 2009 top five picks to meet head-to-head. Jason Smith (OT, 2nd overall) has been drafted to protect Marc Bulger and help the Rams create a dominant running game. Curry is excellent in run defense and his ability to get to Steven Jackson could be crucial. New head coach Steve Spagnuolo will be looking to re-create his previous team's superb run offense. The Giants' ground game eased the pressure on Eli Manning in 2008, who was able to keep things ticking over and owning such a talented back as Jackson, Spagnuolo could be thinking similarly in his new job.
Here's what NFL Draft Scout's Dave Te-Thomas says about Curry and and how he might be effective in week one against the Rams:
Against the run
Curry is much more effective stepping up and clogging the rush lanes than generating pursuit vs. outside runs. He is stout at the point of attack and can take on and shed blockers in front of him. Thanks to his good upper body strength and hand jolt, he consistently is able to stack and control when taking on linemen.
Strength and explosion
Curry likes to line up close to the line of scrimmage, where he can use his explosion and burst to avoid blocks and cause havoc in the backfield. He has no problems when he has to face up, as he makes it tough for bigger blockers to handle him when he uses his athleticism to slip past linemen, but he needs to display better hand usage and strength to shed and keep blockers off his body, especially when pinched back inside. He will sometimes throw a shoulder, but he is most effective executing his punishing arm swipes to split double teams.
Pass rush and blitz
Curry shows good explosion as a blitzer, but because of some lateral mobility stiffness he needs a clear lane to make plays in the backfield. He is better coming off the edge when he keeps his hands active, as he is susceptible to side blocks. He is consistent in getting good hand placement in order to shed, and he has that sudden burst needed to get upfield shooting the gaps when he plays at a low pad level. He closes with desire and even though he does not always take very good angles, he has the chase speed to compensate and make plays in the backfield.
The Seahawks have previously been able to smother St Louis at Qwest Field by playing great defense. In 2008's 37-13 victory, Julian Peterson got a sack and a forced fumble in the game. In a 2007 33-6 hammering Seattle's defense recorded seven sacks with linebackers Peterson and Leroy Hill both getting one apiece. Curry will be hoping to similarly prove effective on debut. Fellow rookie Jason Smith will be looking to create plenty of running lanes for Jackson, whilst keeping Bulger free from trouble. What can we expect to see from Smith and which areas can be exploited? College Talent Scout's Kyle Rota offers his report:
Rota on Jason Smith
Smith is definitely a project. Looking at the positive, he is a very smart young man and it shows with his understanding of the playbook. However, his technique is terrible. I saw him make a couple really poor cut blocks, and he doesn’t have a punch. Too often he gets in front of the DE without punching or even latching on. Instinctively, I liked the awareness but he seemed to struggle catching LBs on the 2nd level. Surprisingly strong run-blocking, pass protection not as strong. He has very good quickness and excellent fluidity.
Smith is raw coming into the NFL, but with massive upside. His attitude, potential and sheer physical quality leads me to believe he'll be a great left tackle one day and the reason he went higher than Eugene Monroe and Andre Smith. However, as Rota suggests there may be a learning curve and playing in front of a noisy 12th man in Seattle could prove to be a baptism of fire for Smith. If, as Rota suggests, he currently has trouble picking up linebackers in the second level, Curry could shut down Steven Jackson with his heat-seaking-missile instincts.
Of course Curry's ability to make plays will be harnessed by the return of Patrick Kerney and the other members of Seattle's new defensive line. Much is expected from Cory Redding and Brandon Mebane, whilst Darryl Tapp and Lawrence Jackson will be hoping for a good start to the year. The battle between Curry and his teammates against the rejuvenated St Louis offensive line (which also includes expensive free agent Jason Brown) could be the determining factor. Curry's unique compliment of size and speed, coming up against the powerful Jackson and athletic Smith will be a matchup worthy of opening the season.
Seattle will also be keen to avoid a repeat of last year's home opener. They were expected to brush aside San Francisco in week two but conceded thirty three points in a 33-30 OT defeat. The Seahawks will likely be favourites on home turf but the ability of Curry and the Seattle defense to become the blue collar, dominating unit that Tim Ruskell and Jim Mora have set out to build could be the determining factor.