Monday, March 16, 2009

What Dreams May Come 2009 - Aaron Curry

Destruction comes in many bitter flavors. The one most favored in the NFL, largely due to the pretty highlights it produces, is that based on aggressive creation of one's own empire over another's system. Aaron Curry reminds you that for all of the importance we give to drive and power, glorifying the penetrating aspects of the game, defense will always be about grinding innumerable forces and directions to a halt. Sure, it’s fun to watch a corner fly through the air to disrupt the intimacy of quarterback and receiver and completely reverse the direction of the game in the process. Of course it’s thrilling to watch a tackle that drives with such force that it dislodges both the football and the order of the game, creating chaos. The fact of the matter, however, is that these are the exceptions to the rule of defense: Stop forward motion at all costs. Watching Curry’s brand of defense, then, is less about singular results than it is about the way it changes the movement of the world of the game, like watching gravity on Jupiter.

At 6’2”, 254 pounds, Curry runs a 4.56 40 and jumps an astonishing 37 inches into the air, all with the muscle to be one of the strongest linebackers in his class. Still, we’ve seen this kind of physicality before. The most remarkable thing about Curry, a physical specimen of the highest caliber, is how easily his tremendous physical gifts become camouflaged in the flow of the game. Consider, however, that at any given instant, the momentum carried by an offense is overwhelming both literally and metaphorically. Offenses create and execute; defenses read and react. Defenses are, by their very nature, one step behind, and generally the best they can do is slow the progress of the offense to the point where they can’t achieve the objectives set forth by the situation, be it ten yards of a touchdown. Aaron Curry’s tremendous physical gifts are expressed in his ability to make up for that step, allowing him to hit at angles and velocities that halt, not merely slow, the progress of the ball carrier.

This is no small matter. Indeed, in the NFL, a level of football built on physical superiority, this sort of ability to destroy progress and defy the direction and nature of the game is found deeper in the defense, where the quickness of both foot and mind necessary to anticipate the direction of the play is matched with the space and time to create the momentum needed to halt the ball carrier. In the case of Curry, however, we now have the distinct possibility of an NFL where this kind of stopping power can be seen much closer to the line, more accurately depicting the kind of gravity increase I mentioned earlier. Again, this is more than just the ability to create plays that are the exceptions to the rule; if Curry’s potential translates to the NFL, we’re talking about creating a new rule.

One has to wonder how the league would adjust to a player with that kind of ability. The NFL has taken drastic steps to make the game more conducive to rapid gratification. Curry’s game, however, thrives on making that kind of gratification impossible. He forces offenses to scratch, scrape, plead, and struggle for every yard. Granted, the league could provide the sort of physical challenge that overwhelms this gift, but that’s what the draft is all about, projecting talents into the future with maximum optimism. I’m not sure, should Curry proceed effortlessly into the league, that there is a run game built to handle the atmospheric change that he promises to bring. That alone merits attention in a draft that seems so terribly comfortable.

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