The smile is back. And that makes a world of difference for defensive end Vinny Curry, who made the big early play in Thursday night's preseason game against Miami, beating tackle Laremy Tunsil and sacking quarterback Jay Cutler from the blind side, forcing a fumble that defensive tackle Fletcher Cox recovered.
Three plays later, quarterback Carson Wentz went 50 yards over the top to wide receiver Torrey Smith and the Eagles had a touchdown and a lead.
And Curry was the one who got everything going in the right direction.
"It was just one of those things where Coach (Doug) Pederson told the starters to prepare like it was the regular season and show up," Curry said. "People started making plays and it was real good."
Curry is a critical piece in the Eagles' defensive line picture. He's starting on the right side and has been active in the first three preseason games, even if the stat line didn't show much until Thursday night when Curry had a sack and then chased down Miami running back Jay Ajayi to get to the football. The Eagles want to create havoc up front in coordinator Jim Schwartz's scheme and Curry is being counted on to be disruptive in his snaps. With Curry, Brandon Graham, Chris Long, Derek Barnett, and Steven Means, the defensive end position goes five deep. Alex McCalister, fighting for a roster spot, has recorded three quarterback sacks in the preseason.
"We've got so many good players on our defensive line, it makes it fun," Curry said.
Curry didn't have a lot of fun in 2016, recording 2.5 quarterback sacks and only 10 quarterback hurries in 435 defensive snap after signing a contract through the 2020 season. He sees 2017 as a fresh start, and the Eagles see him as a new player.
"He's played very well," defensive line coach Chris Wilson said of Curry. "Great effort, doing what we ask him to do and he's going to be around the football this year. That I can tell youl."
Curry and the defensive starters now have their sights set on Washington and the regular-season opener on September 10. The expectations are high.
This defense, fortified by the additions of Barnett, the team's first-round draft pick, defensive tackle Tim Jernigan, and cornerback Ronald Darby, has high hopes. It all starts up front.
The Eagles plan on bringing wave after wave after wave at offensive lines that are sure to be exhausted.
"We feel great. Compared to last year, we are light years ahead. We know what we can do. We just have to keep building," Curry said. "My confidence is definitely there. Last year I was obviously not 100 percent, just playing through some injuries. This year I'm healthy and I'm back to being myself, smiling and playing hard."
The Eagles defeated the Dolphins, 38-31, in their final home preseason game of 2017. Check out photos from the matchup.