The past few seasons at PFF have been all about players moving the goalposts and warping the benchmarks we have come to expect from each position. J.J. Watt has re-written what we thought an interior lineman was capable of and Robert Quinn did exactly the same thing as a 4-3 end.
Between Dwight Freeney in his prime and Cameron Wake over the past few years we thought we had seen the high watermark for the position, but Quinn blew that out of the water this past season.
The best-graded 4-3 ends from 2007-11 all fell within a 15 point grading spread before Cameron Wake set a new benchmark in 2012 with a +54.3 grade. That was 14.6 better than any other mark we had recorded over a full season. Wake’s 17 sacks and 69 additional pressures looked to be as good as it got from an edge rusher. This season Quinn blew that out of the water. His +77.2 grade moved the bar up another 22.9 points and his pass-rushing grade alone stands some way clear of Wake’s overall mark.
Quinn broke out in 2013 and immediately became the new standard for speed edge rushing in the NFL. Most pass-rushers use their speed to set up a devastating inside move, but often in games Quinn’s speed around the corner has proved to be so great that he hasn’t needed to resort to his inside move, destroying tackles around the corner at speeds that need to be seen to be believed.
Best Game: Week 12 vs. Chicago (+14.4)
How dominant was Quinn in this game? His grade for the 69 snaps he played against Chicago would rank eighth in the league over the season at his position. He graded better in this game over 69 snaps than DeMarcus Ware did over 648 snaps playing in Dallas.
Jermon Bushrod may not be the best tackle in the world, but he is an experienced NFL veteran and the Bears were counting on him being a major upgrade on what they have had for the past few seasons. He was completely unable to cope with Quinn in this game. Bushrod alone gave up seven hurries, a knockdown and a sack to Quinn, as well as a holding penalty. That’s not even counting plays where he was badly beaten but the ball came out quickly.
Quinn’s best play though was the holy trinity for a pass-rusher of sack, forced fumble and fumble recovery. He even crowned that with a touchdown. This was the perfect result from a play that Quinn made repeatedly in 2013. His speed off the ball beats Bushrod immediately and all the big lineman can do is try to limit the damage. He fails.
Key Stat: Led the league with 91 total pressures (combined sacks, hits and hurries)
Robert Quinn was bringing pressure in 2013 more than any other player in football. He was the definitive edge rusher that teams clamor for, able to impact a passing game on his own and destroy plays before they ever got going. He registered pressure in every game of the season and was held to just a single pressure only once. He had as many multiple-sack games as he had games without a sack, and had six or more total pressures in eight games – half of his season.
There are players that can achieve an impressive number of total pressures but struggle to convert it into finished plays. Quinn is not one of those players. He generates his pressure almost as a by-product of his devastating plays, crushing pass-protectors at a rate they can’t deal with.
Often the result of the play has less to do with the guy assigned to block Quinn and simply whether the ball was intended to come out quickly enough that it was gone before the rush arrived. He notched 19 sacks, dropped the quarterback another 21 times and forced seven fumbles in his trail of destruction over the season.
There can be no higher compliment to a player than the suggestion that they are moving the bar when it comes to performance at their position. We thought we had seen the top end of elite with Cameron Wake at his best, but Quinn raised the standard even further. The league has a new standard when it comes to speed-rushing defensive ends and Robert Quinn is it. He is No. 2 in the PFF Top 101.
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