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A Bigger Award for Robert Quinn

The comeback Robert Quinn has made deserves consideration for something beyond NFC Defensive Player of the Month.

From looking at the latest DraftKings Sportsbook odds, it's going to take some convincing.

Actually, it's probably a hopeless case because of the number of quarterbacks involved and everyone looks at those players first.

However, Bears outside linebacker Robert Quinn should at least be someone given real consideration for winner of Comeback Player of the Year.

Quinn isn't even listed among odds-on favorites by the gambling website.

Dak Prescott is the favorite and probably for good reason, because of how well he has performed after an ugly dislocated ankle. He had two surgeries on the ankle yet remains a mobile passer who is winning games and producing.

They have Prescott at a huge favorite with a -400 betting line, with Joe Burrow second at +500 and Carson Wentz and James Conner third.

How Burrow can be said to be coming back isn't quite known, since he was a rookie last year and had no established level of NFL play before suffering a torn ACL. And nothing against injured players, but with modern rehab and medicine torn ACLs almost seem like a cut finger. If only they had such science when Gale Sayers played.

None of the favorites are close to the status of Washington's Alex Smith, after nearly losing a leg and then leading his team to the playoffs.

If Conner and Wentz can rank tied for third, then certainly Quinn deserves to be among the top five in consideration. 

The Colts were better last year when aging Philip Rivers was quarterback than they are now with Wentz at quarterback.

Conner—who faces the Bears Sunday—is just coming back from four missed games, three due to COVID-19. To make a comeback, a player actually needs to come back. Conner is averaging 3.8 yards a carry for the Cardinals after averaging 4.3 with the Steelers. How is that coming back? He is a favorite of the fantasy football sect with 12 rushing touchdowns, but in reality it's easy to score a rushing touchdown in Arizona when everyone is worried about the quarterback, all the receivers and not looking at anyone else.

Robert Quinn's Bounce Back

Quinn is coming back from not only a colossal decline in pass rush production over the age of 30, but also some nagging injuries. This included one to his back, another to his ankle and possibly a reported situation described by some as "dropfoot," which has never been labeled accurate by the Bears. The team website recently reported his comeback as a teenager from a brain tumor, and while that doesn't impact his "comeback" status this year it's certainly notable and amazing.

The meat of Quinn's comeback is this: He went from 11 1/2 sacks, 22 hits on the quarterback and 34 pressures in 2019 with Dallas to two sacks, six QB hits and 20 pressures last year with the Bears. And this year already he is at 11 sacks, 13 hits and 21 pressures. 

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It's not easy to come up with 11 sacks when Khalil Mack is on the team getting his share of sacks. After all, there's only one quarterback on a given play and the guys have to learn to share. But Mack has been injured and Quinn responded by upping his play. It's been apparent most in November after Mack was shelved, as Quinn won NFC Defensive Player of the Month. His 5 1/2 sacks came in only three games, with the Bears having their bye then.

Quinn's ratios of sacks to pressures and sacks to hits is incredibly high, showing what a closer he has been. This is being done at the age of 31.

"Well, from last year, just trying to redeem myself, personally, that was a disappointing season," Quinn said. "And this year, I just try to not to let the unnecessary weight or negativity weigh me down or keep it off my plate.

"So this year, I'm just able to have fun, been able to bond with the guys more, so it turned into a brotherhood. So I think just that alone allows you to play more comfortable and fast and make plays."

A quiet guy by nature, Quinn doesn't like to bring up his personal goals but said he has numbers in mind, and hasn't yet approached them. Heaven help quarterbacks if he does.

Quinn is on a track to pass some of the best recorded single-season sack totals by fabled defensive linemen for the Bears like Dan Hampton (11 1/2), Ed O'Bradovich (12), Doug Atkins (12 1/2), Steve McMichael (11 1/2) and Julius Peppers (11 1/2). All this, after he made only two sacks last year.

New Skills Acquired

Beyond this, he's still expanding his repertoire. Quinn admitted when he came to Chicago he thought of himself as more of a 4-3 right defensive end. Yet, he is learning how to defend the pass as a 3-4 outside linebacker.

"I mean the thing that I said to our guys on Monday, he's a prime example of somebody who's a vet and you know a lot of times based on the personality of guys they can get stuck in some ways but he's excelling in everything that we're trying to teach him," defensive coordinator Sean Desai. "And he's taken it upon himself to keep improving at different techniques that sometimes he may not have done earlier in his career."

Quinn laughs about his newfound skill.

"Dropping in coverage, as you know, my career hasn't always been what I do, but this defense you've gotta. You learn some new things," Quinn said. "So covering receivers or tight ends or running backs is what we have to do sometimes. So whatever the call may be, if I've gotta cover, well, I plan to lock my man down and have them throw the ball elsewhere."

If not for Quinn's pass rush, the Bears defense would really be in a rough spot. 

They don't defend the run well. Their pass coverage stats say they rank eighth but they actually have major coverage issues with two positions in particular and the rush Quinn provides has forced quarterbacks into hurrying throws to avoid pressure.

Considering all the calls for GM Ryan Pace's scalp last year after he spent $33 million guaranteed for a pass rusher who made two sacks, and the quality of play now being provided, I submit to you for consideration as 2021 Comeback Player of the Year: Robert Quinn, Chicago Bears.

Twitter: BearDigest@BearsOnMaven