We’ve already talked plenty about the Bears embarrassingly horrific offensive performance against the Cleveland Browns on Sunday. But before the offense had a chance to stink it up at First Energy Field in Cleveland, the defense had a pretty impressive opening act against Baker Mayfield and the Browns.
Of particular note was Robert Quinn getting to Baker Mayfield in the first quarter for a big sack on fourth down to give the Bears possession of the ball for the first time in the game. That sack gave Quinn 3.5 for the season through eight quarters and one defensive possession. Which was particularly good to see, given that Quinn recorded just 2.5 sacks during the entire 2020 season.
But let’s back up. After spending his first nine seasons with the Rams, Dolphins, and Cowboys, Quinn signed a massive five-year, $70 million free agent contract with the Bears last season. The Bears guaranteed $30 million of that contract to Quinn, only to watch him play on just 51% of Chicago’s defensive snaps in his first year. Needless to say, the contract was primarily viewed as a miss by Ryan Pace and company.
In fact, last November, Pro Football Talk’s Chris Simms told NBC Sports Chicago that the deal was a “disaster.”
“I don’t think you can deny that. There’s no doubt. I saw what they were trying to do. I get the point of it. Quinn is a good football player, throughout his career a better pure pass rusher than Leonard Floyd. But I just want to make this clear for everybody out there: he’s not as good as Leonard Floyd.
I tried to say that over the offseason. Yeah, Leonard Floyd’s not the kind of guy that gets 10 sacks a year, and people have a hard time swallowing that pill when he was a top-10 pick. But man, Floyd is extremely disruptive in all facets of the football game. He’s really a hell of a player and he’s kicking butt in L.A. I’m sorry about that Chicago.”
Now seemingly healthy again, Quinn is looking more like the guy the Bears paid for coming off an 11.5 sack season with the Cowboys in 2019. Of course, he’ll likely never again be the guy that netted 40 sacks in three years with the Rams (2012-2014), including a 19.0 sack season in the middle of that run, but Quinn could provide the Bears with that 10-plus sack presence that they craved when they pulled the plug on his predecessor. He’s certainly off to a good enough start (4.0 sacks through 3 games).
This season, Quinn is playing much more often than he did last season, and increasingly so:
Week 1: 63% of Bears Defensive Snaps
Week 2: 69%
Week 3: 78%
All told, through three games in 2021, Quinn is playing 71% of the Bears defensive snaps, a snap share that Quinn hasn’t experienced since that incredible three-year stretch with the Rams from 2012-2014 (and, again, a number far greater than his 51% share with the Bears last season).
Save for some blown coverages that resulted in significant chunk plays against the Rams in Week 1, the early returns on the defensive side of the ball have been pretty good, and Robert Quinn has played a big part in that. The 31-year-old edge rusher has 4.0 sacks, 3.0 tackles for loss, and five quarterback hits through three games.
Whether or not Quinn can remain healthy enough to sustain this pace is the primary question for the Bears and the veteran pass rusher, but heck, that’s just football in general. For the time being, at least, it’s just nice to see Quinn finding himself in Sean Desai’s defense in the infancy of the 2021 season.