Burwell: Rams' Quinn Gets Key Test vs. Miami's Long
Burwell: Rams' Quinn gets key test vs. Miami's Long
1 hour ago • BY BRYAN BURWELL, Post-Dispatch Sports Columnist
MIAMI • Young football players are supposed to crave games like this. They call them "reputation games."
These are the glossy opportunity-knocking moments that can raise your individual profile into the galaxy, shouting out loud to the pro football world that you are a star on the rise.
So why isn't young Rams pass-rushing machine Robert Quinn spending a lot of time pondering the possibilities that Sunday's mano-a-mano duel against Miami Dolphins Pro Bowl offensive tackle Jake Long could be a clear-cut measuring stick that can not only bolster his confidence, but also burnish his image as one of the NFL's rising defensive stars?
He greets that question with a simple shrug of the shoulders. People keep asking him about Long. They keep wondering how jacked up he is to face the four-time Pro Bowler, a former No.1 overall pick, and the imposing left tackle who many NFL wise guys consider to be the physical standard by which all young offensive tackles should be measured.
"But I'm not sure Robert sees it that way because he's such a quiet guy," says teammate Jo-Lonn Dunbar, a linebacker. "He always tells me I don't have to yell or scream to make plays. I'm sure he is excited about the match-up, but I'm sure Robert's not going to ever say those things."
But this is one of those wonderful match-ups that make NFL Sundays special. Quinn, 22, is a physical freak who seems to have been chiseled into the perfect frame for a pass-rushing nightmare. At 6 feet 4 and 264 pounds, his body is tapered from these broad shoulders to narrow waist and long, slightly bowed legs that make him look like some mad scientist stacked a perfectly muscular wrestler's triangular upper body onto a pair of sprinter's legs. The second-year first-round pick from North Carolina is tied for third in the NFL in sacks, with six, — including three in the team's last game, against Arizona.
"He's a physical freak of nature," Rams defensive tackle Kendall Lankford says. "Rob has incredible body control. You watch him rush the edge and his body is doing things that are almost impossible. The way he bends his hips, the way he can get off the edge with his body so low to the ground, the way he can then swing his arms and make an inside move. He just really understands leverage. He used to wrestle, so all the bending and things come natural to him. I always tell him he looks like one of those (wind sock characters), you know those long things that just blow in the wind with their arms flailing every which way?
"Well that's Rob, because his body is so flimsy like that," Lankford says. "He's an incredible talent. He just has a knack for getting to the quarterback."
In his last game, he positively abused Arizona's 6-foot-4, 314-pound tackle D'Anthony Batiste.
Batiste tried tackling Quinn on one play after the Rams pass rusher zipped past him with a lightning-quick outside rush, and Quinn still dragged Batiste like an untucked shirt tail as he drilled Kevin Kolb for a sack of 9 yards. On his final sack, late in the fourth quarter, it was another blur of an outside move with Batiste holding him around his waist while Quinn shed him, wrapped both arms around Kolb's arms and stripped the ball for a sack and forced fumble.
In game-tape review, Quinn probably was cheated out of at least a half-sack on another play.
Batiste was overwhelmed by Quinn's talent. But Sunday's duel will be a greater challenge because he's facing a 27-year-old tackle in Long, who at 6 feet 7, 319 pounds seems to have been sculpted into the ideal frame for the modern pass-blocking left tackle. Long arms. Athletic feet. Strong enough to maul you, quick enough to dance with you. So wide you can't get around him, so tall and strong you can't go over him, either. In his first four full seasons in the league, Long gave up a total of only 16 sacks protecting the Dolphins' blind side.
As the TV cameras and microphones crowded around him recently, Quinn didn't really have all that much to say. He really didn't seem to be all that concerned about facing Long. He seemed to be more interested in the video game rookie teammate Michael Brockers was playing in the neighboring locker stall.
"What am I supposed to say?" he asks with a soft chuckle after the media horde had drifted away. "He's just the next guy I'm facing. I still have to do my job, don't I?"
Maybe there's a reason why Quinn is playing this so low key. As good as Long has been in his first four seasons, by his own admission he has been struggling. After averaging only four sacks surrendered a season in his first four years in the league, Long has already given up four sacks in the Dolphins' five games.
"I hate it. Sacks are my biggest pet peeve," Long told reporters a few days after Arizona linebacker Sam Acho jumped over his cut -lock to sack rookie Ryan Tannehill two weeks ago. "I'm working every single day to correct the problems, watching the film and seeing what I did wrong. I got to make sure it doesn't happen because that's something I hate."
Quinn (seven quarterback pressures, 10 QB hits to go with his sacks) and his pass-rushing tag-team partner Chris Long (three sacks, 20 QB pressures, 11 QB hits) have become arguably the best 1-2 pass-rushing defensive end tandem in the league. A large part of his advancement has to do with how well the entire defense has developed and how much Quinn has progressed under the tutelage of new defensive line coach Mike Waufle.
The pass-rushing pressure is coming from everywhere now, with Lankford, Michael Brockers, Jermelle Cudjo and Eugene Sims applying a push inside, Chris Long rushing hard off the other edge and blitzes coming from every gap imaginable.
But Quinn has to know that after his big game against Arizona on NFL Network's Thursday night national telecast, his profile already has been raised a notch or two — which means the television cameras will be zooming in on his duel with Long this week.
"I'm going to bring my 'A game' and I'm sure he's going to bring his 'A game,'" Quinn said with a subtle grin flashing. "And I think it's going to be a fun Sunday."
And what exactly constitutes a "fun Sunday" for Quinn?
"Let's just say I want to win," he said. "How about that? I just want to win."
Re: Burwell: Rams' Quinn Gets Key Test vs. Miami's Long
Let everybody focus on the Quinn/Long match up. While our Long has a big game!