Jim Johnson referred to defensive linemen who could get after the quarterback as "fastballs," and the former Eagles coordinator liked to throw as many of them as he could.

Vinny Curry, whose singular identifiable NFL skill is that he can cause an awful lot of havoc in the backfield, would have been Johnson's kind of guy. There are some other things at which he might not be as proficient, but for a defensive coach who believes the most important job is making the opposing quarterback uncomfortable, Curry is a valuable card to hold.

From what we can tell so far, Jim Schwartz, the new defensive coordinator on head coach Doug Pederson's staff, doesn't mind having some fastballs, either. The front office gave him one this week, locking up Curry to a long-term contract that keeps the 2012 second-round pick out of free agency.

"I like this group. It's very attractive," Schwartz said when he was hired, reciting the names of Fletcher Cox, Curry, Connor Barwin, Brandon Graham, and Cedric Thornton. "Those guys are all attack players. We can get after the quarterback without blitzing, and we'll be in a great position."

With the exception of Thornton, a free agent who doesn't appear to be a priority, Schwartz should have all of them on the field next season. It might be a stretch for anyone to fill the footprints left here by Johnson, but Schwartz brings the same aggressive mind-set, which would be refreshing after three seasons of watching a 3-4 alignment that focused on containing the line of scrimmage rather than dominating it.

"He said he's going to put me in position to do what I love to do," Curry said of Schwartz, "and I thought that was golden for me."

The last three seasons weren't so golden. Relegated to passing situations, he saw his playing time suffer. He did manage to record nine sacks in 2014, but that total slipped to 31/2 in 2015.

"At one point, I was playing like 26 percent [of the snaps]," Curry said. "I still gave maximum effort and tried hard, but if that's what it was going to be, that's what it was going to be. I can't jump up and down and cry. I'm looking forward, and the past is the past."

With a new five-year $46.25 million contract that guarantees $23 million, Curry won't be getting paid like a backup. He figures to be in a regular end rotation with Barwin and Graham. For a change, he won't be the subject of constant trade rumors.

"Every year," Curry said. "Now I won't get text messages from my nephews and little cousins saying, 'Hey, how come you're always on the trading block on Madden?' I had no answer for that."

Schwartz said he hopes to build a defense that is multidimensional, and even anticipates working some "wide-nine" sets into the defensive playbook. That might bring back bad memories for Eagles fans. The wide-nine philosophy of line coach Jim Washburn in 2011 and 2012 didn't halt the team's slide under Andy Reid. It might be very good for Vinny Curry, though.

"I've never called myself a wide-nine guy but . . . everybody uses some of those principles," Schwartz said. "If you say wide-nine, there are 32 teams in the league that line up in a wide-nine at some time or other."

With the defensive ends occasionally setting a wide edge and lasering toward the quarterback, a player such as Curry can cause a lot of problems. He felt miscast in the 3-4, frustrated by his number of snaps and unfairly pigeon-holed as merely a third-down lineman.

"It's almost like getting a point guard and trying to make him a [power forward]. He's going to score all day, but as far as boxing out, that's not going to happen. It's not his natural thing," Curry said. "Just the last couple people talked about [his being just a third-down player]. It was only the last three years I heard that. My first year, I heard I was the most all-around player we have."

There's no point in speaking ill of the deposed, but of all the Eagles players who didn't mind seeing the back end of Chip Kelly leaving town, Curry might be at the top of the list. He wouldn't have gotten this contract here - or, maybe, any contract here - if Kelly had remained along with his preference for the 3-4.

Someone asked Curry whether the team had approached him at all last year about working out a new contract. He shook his head.

"I didn't get approached about a lot of things last year," he said quietly.

That was then, and Curry is ready for the now. He's ready to be a fastball in the hand of a defensive coordinator who wants to unleash them every down. That sounds golden to Vinny Curry, the almost-forgotten defensive end who ended up with a new contract this week that looks just as shiny.

bford@phillynews.com

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