AT THIS point, with the Eagles' season apparently spiraling down the drain, it's time to wonder: What does defensive end Vinny Curry have to do to get on the field?

Curry, the second-round pick from Marshall, was inactive for the ninth straight game of his rookie season on Monday night. Believe it or not, the much-maligned Eagles defensive line did its job against the Saints, getting to Drew Brees twice and forcing two fumbles.

But the back seven did not, and the Saints were able to move the ball effortlessly down the field at times, putting the Eagles' season on life support at 3-5, heading into Sunday's game against Dallas.

The mixture of players on defense, while supposedly talented, seems to be toxic. While fans will surely clamor for Nick Foles to get a shot at quarterback, it might be his rookie counterpart on the d-line who will see the field first.

That time can't come soon enough for Curry.

"I asked. Trust me, I asked," Curry said last week when asked why he hasn't played. "They said there are so many defensive ends here. It definitely isn't my ability to play, which is always good to hear coming from them."

As the draft approached last spring, general manager Howie Roseman admitted that the team had erroneously strayed from the "best available" draft philosophy that made the Eagles successful early in the Andy Reid era. He vowed to correct it. After nabbing Fletcher Cox and Mychal Kendricks with their first two picks, the Eagles selected Curry at No. 59. Draft pundits lauded it as a value pick, praising Curry's ability to rush the passer and his familiarity with the wide-nine - Marshall utilizes a similar scheme. To top it off, Curry is from nearby Neptune, N.J., and is a die-hard Eagles fan.

There was only one problem: Heading into the season, defensive end was the Eagles' deepest position.

Curry is through asking when he will get to play, and has instead concentrated on funneling all of his energy and frustration into improving.

"What I try to do is I try to stand out in practice," Curry said. "You ask guys around the locker room how I am practicing and I just try to stick out everyday. I feel like, if you have your teammates' respect and you're sticking out to them, coaches can't ignore that."

Generously listed at 6-3 and 266 pounds, Curry definitely needs to get bigger and stronger. His forte at Marshall was the speed rush, but the NFL is a big jump from Conference USA. Still, Curry is already 24 and was touted as NFL-ready.

Defensive linemen Derek Wolfe and Kendall Reyes, fellow second-rounders and Curry's teammates at the Senior Bowl, have made significant contributions to the Broncos and Chargers, respectively. Wolfe has three sacks and is starting for the 10th-ranked Denver defense.

In fact, of the six defensive linemen drafted in the second round last April, Curry is the only one who has been inactive for any reason other than injury.

"You get to be good friends with those guys, and you're just happy for their success," Curry said. "Everybody wants this dream. For them to be doing well, my hat goes off to them. The only thing you can do, when your time comes around, is to have a good outcome as well."

None of this is to say that Curry can't play, simply that whether he can or not is an unknown until he does. His time should be fast-approaching, and the success of his draft mates has only strengthened his confidence. While he admits to pouting early in the season, he credits some of the Eagles' veterans with helping him keep his head on straight.

"Yeah, at first it was [tough]," he said. "But I've got good teammates. Shady [McCoy], [Jason] Babin - they have been in this position before. They tell me it's not you."

For the second straight year, this Eagles team has been a disappointment. If they continue to sink toward NFL irrelevance, they might consider dismantling more than just the coaching staff. The first step of that plan is to find out what they have in guys like Curry.

Until then, the Eagles will hang onto the sliver of hope that is a playoff spot. Their fans will let them hear it along the way. And no player knows it better than Curry.

"Here is the thing," Curry said, channeling his inner-Eagles fan. "Us Eagles fans, you know, we got every right to want the best for our team. Us players, though, we go out here and work hard as well. Sometimes things don't click for us.

"As a fan, you think you've got the best team and nobody can beat you. But each fan is entitled to their opinion, definitely. Everyone is entitled to their opinion. I could definitely see where it is coming from."