He doesn't lead the NFL in sacks and his team will be home in January. But the St. Louis Rams' Robert Quinn quietly is having the best season by a pass rusher and is making a strong case to be named Defensive Player of the Year
If you want to know why Rams end Robert Quinn is being mentioned as a serious candidate for NFL Defensive Player of the Year, watch this clip from last Sunday’s contest against the Saints. You won’t see many individual efforts better than this one.
The Saints, down 24-3 at that point, were trying to get back into the game with a third-and-17 play at the St. Louis 37-yard line. Quinn rushed quarterback Drew Brees from his right end position and was immediately chipped by tight end Jimmy Graham. Then left tackle Charles Brown and left guard Ben Grubbs teamed to knock Quinn to the ground. They probably thought the play was over, but Quinn crawled for about 2 yards, got up and strip-sacked Brees, all in just 2.71 seconds. Quinn capped it off by recovering the fumble.
“Once I got chipped and I fell and was crawling, I saw Drew Brees stepping up because Chris Long was forcing him to step up that way. He had a great rush also,” Quinn said, recalling the play before practice Thursday. “As he was stepping up, I was just trying to get a little bit closer. I was able to dive at the ball, get it out and create a huge turnover for our team.”
(Here's a frame-by-frame look at the play from the back end zone camera.)
Quinn did it all in this game for the Saints. He had a solo sack to thwart a third-and-1 play, drew a holding penalty, hurried Brees nine times and his quarterback hit on the first series forced an interception, which the Rams turned into a lead they would not relinquish. The 7.75 Pressure Points Quinn accumulated against the Saints was the second-highest total for any player this season, and earned him his second edge rusher of the week award. Quinn set the mark with 9.5 in Week 12 against the Bears.
It’s been this way all season for the 14th overall pick in the 2011 draft. Quinn ranks second in the NFL with 15 sacks (Colts’ Robert Mathis leads with 16.5) and leads with eight forced fumbles. Quinn needs two more sacks to tie the franchise record of 17 set by Kevin Carter in 1999. Quinn leads all players with 55 Pressure Points on the season (Gerald McCoy is a distant second with 47.50) and is third in Pressure Points Rate behind Elvis Dumervil and Aldon Smith when snaps are factored.
Those are some of the reasons Quinn is a contender for the DPOY award, which has never been won by a Ram.
“I don’t know of any other defensive player that’s playing as consistently as well as he is,” coach Jeff Fisher said this week. “There’s a lot of good defensive players in the league, but I definitely believe he should be considered for that. Ask Drew Brees.”
Quinn, who was forced to sit out his final collegiate season at North Carolina after taking improper benefits, has made steady progress since entering the league, with five sacks as a rookie and 10.5 in ’12.
“I’m kind of back in my groove,” Quinn said. “My rookie year I didn’t play that much and I was kind of out of it. My second year I played a lot more and started to get back in the groove. This year, [I] just kind of started where I left off. But I have a great group of defensive players that have helped me out, so a bunch of credit goes to them as well.”
Quinn said he’s trying not to think much about a possible DPOY award.
“It’s always a great honor, just to be considered in that conversation because there’s so many great defensive players out there,” Quinn said. “It’d be an even bigger honor if I win it, and also for the Rams. You usually don’t get those things without a great team around you but a lot of credit goes out to my teammates and the man upstairs. I’ve been blessed beyond measure.”
UNSUNG EDGE RUSHER FOR WEEK 15
Cameron Wake, Miami Dolphins
He had the team’s lone sack, but Wake’s relentless overall pressure was a big reason why the Dolphins knocked off the Patriots to remain in the thick of the playoff race. Wake also had four hurries and five additional quarterback hits against Tom Brady to notch 5.75 Pressure Points, Wake’s highest total since the first game against the Browns (6.63).
“I think we actually hit (Brady), knocked him down a few times...” Dolphins defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle said this week. “I wished we could have gotten more sacks, obviously, but (Tom Brady) throws the ball extremely quick. I think we rushed them good.”
INTERIOR RUSHER OF WEEK 15
Gerald McCoy, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
This is getting boring. Despite just having one assisted sack, McCoy led interior rushers with 4.25 Pressure Points thanks to seven quarterback hurries. McCoy has now won this award four times in the previous five weeks. Since registering just one hurry in Week 9 against the Panthers, McCoy has 28.75 Pressure Points in 279 pass rushes for a rate of 10.3. That’s better than J.J. Watt’s season-long rate of 9.9. Too bad Bucs coach Greg Schiano didn’t use McCoy this way from the get go.
UNSUNG INTERIOR RUSHER OF WEEK 15
Jonathan Babineaux, Atlanta Falcons
The ninth-year tackle didn’t have a sack against Washington (he has just one on the season), but he was all over quarterback Kirk Cousins with four hurries and two hits to finish sixth with 3.0 Pressure Points. It was Babineaux’s highest total since posting 2.75 in Week 1 and 8.
“Jonathan Babineaux, I think, has really had a very good season,'' Falcons coach Mike Smith said of the free-agent-to-be. "He's been very disruptive. You know, Jonathan makes those plays in the defensive backfield—many times he's led the league since we've been here in minus-yardage plays.
"Jonathan has the ability to basically play in three of the four spots on our defensive front. And he's a very good leader of that group, has been since we've been here. He's probably the one constant that we've had now since Day 1. Jonathan is a tough, hard-nosed, smart football player."
One of biggest indicators of success for NFL defensive coaches is the ability to affect the quarterback.
Sure, that means sacks, which are an official NFL statistic. And quarterback hits, which are also tallied in press boxes. But affecting the quarterback, making him feel pressure, has several other factors, most of which aren’t officially tallied (though NFL teams do them internally).
We at The MMQB thought long and hard about finding a better way to evaluate quarterback pressure, both from individual and team standpoints. We’ve developed our own formula, which we think will highlight players who aren’t getting the glory stats (sacks) but are still affecting the quarterback just as much.
The two statistics that we’ll be tabulating are sack assists and drawn holds. The latter is self-explanatory. Pass rushers are sometimes held by offensive lineman before they can sack the quarterback. Those plays aren’t official plays for the NFL. But they can be nearly as damaging. It’s a 10-yard foul, although there is no loss of down.
A sack assist is given to a player who allows a teammate to get a sack. You see it all the time. One player comes flying at a quarterback, causing him to bolt, and the QB winds up in the arms of a different defender. Sometimes the sacker didn’t do very much, yet he still gets credit for the sack. The player who actually caused the sack gets nothing. We’re going to change that.
Here’s how the formula works.
Because not all sacks are created equally, we have divided up sacks into three categories: solo, assisted andeasy.
Solo sack (1.25 points): For the player who beats a blocker and gets the sack on his own. These are the real sack masters; they should be rewarded for their standout individual effort.
Assisted sack (.75 points): Given to the player who officially receives a sack but had help from a teammate in taking the quarterback down.
Easy sack (.75 points): An official sack that falls into one of the following categories: coverage sack (quarterback held the ball longer than 3.3 seconds because the coverage was so good); unblocked, usually because of a schemed blitz; offensive miscue, such as the quarterback tripping after getting stepped on by an offensive lineman; or garbage-time sack, which we have defined as a sack when the offense is trailing by more than two scores with four minutes or less remaining in the game.
Sack assist (.5 points): As described above, this is when a player aids in the sacking of a quarterback. The official sacker will get an “assisted” or “easy” sack (.75 points), and the disrupter gets a “sack assist.”
These three categories—drawn holds, hurries and hits—are not official statistics, but they’re extremely important. A team can have zero sacks, but if they accumulate hurries or hits, they’re making life extremely uncomfortable for a quarterback. The hurries and hits are shared with us by our friends at ProFootballFocus.com. Our hits and hurries include plays wiped out by penalty.
Drawn hold (.75 points): The player who draws a holding penalty on a pass play. Only tabulated if the penalty results in a “no play.” If there is holding on a sack and the sack counts, there is no drawn hold—although that player could get a sack assist.
Hurry (.5 points): When the actions of a defender causes the quarterback to alter his throw or footwork. This is what defenses call “moving a quarterback off his spot.”
Hit (.5 points): Recorded just after or as the quarterback releases a pass and goes to the ground as a result of contact with a defender.
Once the film is graded, we come up with Pressure Points. We feel this is a much better way to evaluate what kind of quarterback pressure a player or team is generating. We will divide the performances by edge rushers(ends and outside linebackers), interior rushers (tackles and inside linebackers) and by team. Individually, we will handout two awards for both edge rushers and interior rushers.