Aside from helping his new team return to the playoffs one personal goal should be amongst Aaron Curry's ambitions in 2009 - become defensive rookie of the year. I'm sure if you asked the humble linebacker he'd talk about simply doing his utmost to help his teammates and that personal achievements come a close second. Last year's winner Jerod Mayo would have done the same thing, but nobody will deny that by registering 128 total tackles he did as much as anyone to help the Patriots to an 11-5 record.
The mere fact that Curry is a linebacker puts him amongst the front runners to scoop the award. The last six defensive rookies of the year were all linebackers, previous winners include the 49ers Patrick Willis and San Diego's Shawne Merriman. Willis needed 174 tackles and four sacks to win it, Merriman only picked up 57 tackles but added a further ten sacks. Improving upon Julian Peterson's final season with the Seahawks (86 tackles, 5 sacks) could be enough.
So what will help or hinder Curry? Playing alongside Leroy Hill and Lofa Tatupu could do both. On one hand, there's only so many plays to go round and Curry's production may take a slight hit playing as part of a talented trio. You could also argue, the attention presented to Tatupu and Hill will stop teams game planning Curry too much - leaving a perfect platform to wreak havoc. The Seahawks enjoyed a solid 2007 season, here's the stat sheet for the starting linebackers:
Julian Peterson - 74 tackles, 9.5 sacks, 2 interceptions
Lofa Tatupu - 109 tackles, 1 sack, 4 interceptions
Leroy Hill - 81 tackles, 3 sacks
Ok, so the scope isn't there for an insane Patrick Willis type season with over 150 tackles. But there's plenty to go around. Curry's speed and burst off the line could take some unsuspecting teams by surprise and his ability to take on tight ends and full backs could cause plenty of problems. The decision isn't all about numbers either, Curry's ability to be an effective force will draw attention from the judging panel.
Nothing is ever decided in May, but who are the other early contenders? Larry English may force his way to starting status at OLB in San Diego and could be worth an outside bet. Robert Ayers is likely to be used creatively by the Broncos and was considered in some quarters to be the best defensive end in the 2009 draft. If New Orleans' superb offense forces teams to gun sling, a ball hawk like Malcolm Jenkins may register enough picks to warrant consideration.
Curry has the raw talent and plays in a suitable scheme with a great home field advantage. The platform is there for a challenge at the top rookie title. If the Seahawks can get healthy and productive in the trenches (the return of Patrick Kerney presenting a real boost) then the extra space afforded to guys like Curry could be crucial. Not just in terms of winning personal awards, but also helping the team to hit back in 2009.