BETHLEHEM - By now, we all are pretty familiar with Juan Castillo's feelings about the importance of hard work. The Eagles' defensive coordinator believes hard work is the key to success, whether you're a football coach or a physicist or a cashier at Kohl's.

He believes hard work can cure cancer, solve global warming, create a spirit of bipartisan cooperation in Congress, end the recession, make the Kardashians go away and help the Eagles finally win a Super Bowl.

Given Castillo's feelings about hard work, you can just imagine how much he must love a kid like rookie defensive end Vinny Curry, whose Twitter profile reads: "Hard work beats talent when talent doesn't work hard."


"That's one thing about me," said Curry, the second of the Eagles' two second-round picks in the April draft. "A lot of guys just take God's gift. Me, even though I'm talented, you've gotta work hard at it.

"I'm all about perfection. I'm always thinking, technique, technique, technique. Fourth quarter, when everybody is tired, if you're doing that proper technique, you're going to be in the exact right spot at the right time."

Curry was in the exact right spot at the right time a lot in the Eagles' 24-23 preseason win over the Steelers on Thursday night. The rookie had a team-high five tackles, including three for losses.

"I'm all about work and production," the Neptune, N.J., native said. "I'm just trying to be that player they drafted me to be."

While the Eagles still have some unanswered questions on their defense, their defensive line isn't one of them. Even with tackle Mike Patterson still recovering from January brain surgery, they are stacked up front

A unit that notched 46 of the team's league-high 50 sacks last season has gotten even better with the return to health of 2010 first-round pick Brandon Graham (microfracture surgery on his knee) and run-plugging tackle Antonio Dixon (torn tricep) and the additions of Curry and first-round tackle Fletcher Cox.

Ben Roethlisberger and the rest of the Steelers' quarterbacks found that out Thursday as the Eagles collected seven sacks.

Curry was one of those ever-popular I-can't-believe-he-still-was-on-the-board picks. The Eagles, who already had taken linebacker Mychal Kendricks with the first of their two second-round picks, traded down with the other to regain a fourth-round pick they earlier had sold in a first-round move-up to get Cox. They ultimately ended up using that fourth-round pick to land another I-can't-believe-he-was-still-on-the-board player, cornerback/kick returner Brandon Boykin.

They weren't thinking about taking another defensive lineman with that second second-round pick. But lo and behold, when they were on the clock with the 59th pick, there was Curry, the 6-3, 270-pound Conference USA Defensive Player of the Year out of Marshall, still unclaimed. General manager Howie Roseman, a recent best-athlete-available convert, pounced on him.

Curry is raw and still has a lot to learn, which defensive line coach Jim Washburn has let him know in between expletives on a number of occasions at Lehigh. But as we saw Thursday against the Steelers, he has the potential to be really, really good.

"What Vinny did," Castillo said, "is he turned it loose.

"The young kids, they put a lot of pressure on themselves. That's the kind of guys they are. If they just have fun and do what they did in college, that's why they're here. And I think that's what Vinny did [on Thursday night].

"Coach Wash talked to him and Vinny just relaxed and turned it loose and played hard. In time, what happens, this is a muscle-memory game.

"Going through all the drills, he'll end up doing the things Wash wants done correctly."

The biggest adjustment for the rookie is mastering Washburn's wide-nine, in which the ends line up about 3 feet wider than normal so they can get opposing offensive tackles out on an island and take advantage of their speed.

He missed out on some valuable reps in June when an ankle injury kept him out of the Eagles' final week of OTAs and their last minicamp.

"That set me back a little, so I'm just piling my plate up with work and trying to get better," he said.

Curry currently is the team's No. 3 right end behind two-time Pro Bowler Trent Cole and veteran Darryl Tapp.

Washburn likes to regularly rotate his front four. Last year, he had four tackles get more than 350 snaps and four ends with more than 260.

A fifth end, Phillip Hunt, played 180 snaps. Which means if Curry continues to progress and earn Castillo's and Washburn's trust, he likely will be playing a lot this season.

"I love [the wide-nine]," he said. "People say it looks so easy.

"But it's not, man. Your aiming points [the spot where you expect the quarterback to be] have to be consistent, consistent, consistent, to do some of the things our d-ends do. This is my second week in it. Every day I'm trying to do better.

"I talk to Trent [Cole] every day. He said it's going to take time. It took him time last year to get it down."

Cole, a two-time Pro Bowler who has 55 sacks over the last five seasons, has been impressed by what he's seen of Curry. "He's doing great," Cole said. "He's progressing. He's new. He's got things to learn, but it takes time."

Said Curry: "I know I can always play better. I need to improve some things from a technique standpoint. Trent and [Jason] Babin and those guys told me just to go out there [and play]. [They said], 'It's not like it's something you've never done before. You've been doing this your whole life. Just go out there and have fun and play your game.'

"I've got some great players inside our [locker] room that I can really learn from. I'm trying. But it's going to take time. Eventually, I'll be rockin' and rollin.' "

Hard work conquers all.