Aaron Curry is getting excited about the coming season as he is confident that his Seattle Seahawk coaches have figured out the best way to use his athletic ability at linebacker.
Curry favours newly defined defensive role at Seattle Seahawks
High expectations come with high draft picks, especially when you are the highest-picked player at your position in nearly a decade.
That is what happened to Aaron Curry, the Wake Forest college outside linebacker, when the Seattle Seahawks selected him fourth overall in the 2009 draft.
Not since Penn State's LaVar Arrington was taken second overall by the Washington Redskins in 2000 had a college linebacker been regarded so highly. Curry had the pedigree, winning the Butkus Award as the college's best linebacker after the 2008 season.
Even at 6ft 2 in (1.88m) and 250 pounds (113kg), Curry has the type of track speed you would expect from tight ends and safeties.
Because of that, the Seahawks had trouble narrowing down where they wanted to use him.
He played fairly well in his rookie season as a linebacker/pass rusher hybrid, but that role took him away from his strengths, and injuries derailed his progress.
"In my first year, I had a completely different responsibility - I did more pass rushing than I ever did in college," Curry said.
When Pete Carroll replaced Jim Mora as the Seahawks' head coach before the 2010 season, one of the first things he did was to look at film of Curry to see where he would best fit his defensive schemes.
Carroll decided to move Curry back to more of a dedicated outside linebacker role, but there were other responsibilities that occasionally caused Curry to struggle.
At times, Curry's physical gifts seemed to get in the way. His speed became a liability as he overran plays, and his agility did not serve him as well as it should have in pass coverage because he was still adjusting to his roles in the NFL.
Carroll says that now, in Curry's third season, player and team finally seem to be on the same page.
"Aaron, he's deep into what we're doing," Carroll said. "We know how to utilise him now. Last year, we tried to figure out how much we should move him around in pass-rush situations. He's really an outside linebacker, and he does a really good job of doing that."
Ken Norton, the linebacker coach, who played 13 years in the NFL for the Dallas Cowboys and San Francisco 49ers, went to three Pro Bowls as a linebacker. He immediately saw that Curry had all the gifts any linebacker could want. The key was channelling all that athleticism.
"Just letting him know that, as good as he is - he's got speed, he's got power, he's got instincts and he's got a great attitude - that's a great foundation to be a really good player," Norton said. "He just needs to understand what he has, and be confident in it."