BY JIM THOMAS
Monday, August 29, 2011 12:15 am

Robert Quinn broke through Kansas City's line, fought off a holding penalty against Chiefs tackle Jared Gaither and brought quarterback Ricky Stanzi to the ground early in the second quarter.

It was Quinn's first sack in the pros, albeit in a preseason game. The defensive end from North Carolina, just three months removed from his 21st birthday, marked the occasion with, well, with nothing really. No sack dance here.

"I think I'll save my little celebration for the regular season," Quinn chuckled. "Nothing just yet."

Last year, Quinn had nothing to celebrate at North Carolina. He sat out the entire season after it came to light that he accepted benefits not allowed by the NCAA. So Friday's sack was his first since Nov. 21, 2009 at Boston College, a 31-13 victory for the Tar Heels.

"It definitely felt good," Quinn said. "It's been a while since I had one of those. I feel like I'm getting my legs back up under me. And with the good group of core veterans on the D-line and really on the defense they just support me, trying to help me, I guess, mature faster as a young player. I really try to take their advice, learn from them, and help make a play."

Besides the sack, Quinn made another big play in the Rams' 14-10 Governor's Cup victory over the Chiefs, blocking a 21-yard field goal attempt by Ryan Succop with just under 3 minutes remaining in the game.

Quinn got through almost untouched from the left side of the St. Louis line and used his 6-foot-4 frame and 34-inch vertical leap to bat down the kick.

"I was just right there at my basic end spot and got through," Quinn said. "It definitely was (exciting) when I heard it smack off my hand."

Quinn had a big smile on his face when he came over to the Rams' sideline after the block, which helped preserve the Rams' third victory in as many tries this preseason. It's those kinds of plays be they the blocked field goal or the sack that could have Rams coaches smiling this season and beyond.

"He will help us this year as he learns to play that (end) position," defensive coordinator Ken Flajole said. "He's been out of football. Last year, as you know, he didn't get a chance to play. So we're knocking the rust off a little bit.

"It was encouraging to see him play the other night against Kansas City. It looked like he was starting to come on. You're seeing the signs of progress, things that he does on the practice field he's now being able to transfer them into the game."

There is a learning curve for all NFL rookies, regardless of position. Quinn's was compounded by:

The lost 2010 season in college.

The fact that there were no minicamps, OTAs or contact with coaches during the lockout.

The fact that he missed most of the first week of Rams camp because of the birth of his son, Robert Jr., and because of a knee injury from summer training.

"I thought he played a little bit faster (Friday) than he had, which just means that he's probably thinking less and reacting more," Spagnuolo said. "Especially at that position, that's pretty important.

"All these young guys, it takes a little while. We've got a couple safeties going through the same thing, and a couple of linebackers. It's just the speed of the game, and it's all obviously going to increase in a couple of weeks here. He's got a little ways to go, but it's good to see every game or every practice we go forward, he gets better and better and that's what we are looking for."

As he learns the playbook, Quinn has been getting help from some of the veterans on the defensive line. But Flajole said Quinn also has shown a willingness to learn and an ability to pick things up quickly.

"I didn't know him two months ago as well as I know him now, but I'm very surprised," Flajole said. "He's a bright kid. He asks good questions. If he makes a mistake, he very rarely repeats it, which tells me a couple things: He's bright. He cares. He wants to be good.

"And if he's got those qualities, factored in with his God-given ability, I think he can be a special player."

First and foremost, what could make Quinn special in the NFL is his ability to rush the passer. During his 2009 season at North Carolina, he ranked second in the Atlantic Coast Conference with 11 sacks and led the conference with 19 tackles for loss.

The beauty of the situation for the Rams is that Quinn doesn't have to be rushed into a starting role. Quinn plays left end, but so does James Hall, who coming off a 10-sack season and isn't ready to be put out to pasture.

"I think Robert can grow into his position," Flajole said. "We're fortunate (at end); that's been a very good position for us to date."

It looks like it's only going to get better.