The Bears got a small taste of what the defense can look like with Robert Quinn Sunday, and coaches and teammates alike are excited.
The team signed the two-time Pro Bowl outside linebacker in the offseason, but an ankle injury kept Quinn out of the season opener against the Detroit Lions and was questionable for Sunday's matchup against the New York Giants.
Quinn made an immediate impact in his Chicago debut.
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"The first play, he goes out there and he gets that strip/sack," said coach Matt Nagy. "That's what he's been doing in camp when he's out there. He's got really long arms, and he cuts that leverage down. He's got that bend going around [the edge]. He stays so low. It's hard for tackles [to stop], and then he has some counter moves off of that."
Quinn's forced fumble against Giants quarterback Daniel Jones gave the offense a short field, which resulted in a field goal. Those three points proved crucial in a game the Bears won 17-13, with the Giants running out of time on the Bears' 10-yard line at the end of the contest.
The team used Quinn sparingly; he was only on the field for 38 percent of the Bears' defensive plays. However, his teammates are excited about his potential as a pass rusher. Defensive lineman Akiem Hicks, who also recorded a sack against the Giants, believes that Quinn's presence will benefit everyone involved in the pass rush.
"Blazing good," said Hicks. "I mean, he took off the line and got a sack on the first third down, the first series of the game. A talent like his isn't to be taken lightly in this league. He's somebody that can come off the edge with such ferocity and speed that, you know, he changes the math for the offense. They've got to figure out a way to stop him."
Quinn is coming off a renaissance season in 2019. His 11.5 sacks marked his best total since his 19-sack total in 2013 when he was named Defensive Player of the Year by the Pro Football Writers Association.
While he was brought in for his pass-rushing prowess, Quinn has managed to charm his new head coach with his dry sense of humor.
"The very first time that I talked to him, you could just sense that just by the way that he talks, he's country," said Nagy. "Whenever I see him in the hallways here at Halas or at lunch or something and ask him how his day's going, he always starts it off with, 'Pretty good because I woke up today.'"
"Country" is relative, as Quinn grew up in the suburbs of Charleston, South Carolina, a metro area of 800,000 people. However, Quinn's combination of stoicism off the field and passion on it hits the right balance in Nagy's eyes.
"He doesn't say a whole lot," said Nagy. "You'll see him on the sideline yesterday, if you see the sideline copy [of the game film], you'll see he's jumping up and down when he's on the sideline. When he's not out there, he's really into the team aspect. He cares about his teammates, and again, he just wants to win."
It seems unlikely that the Bears will need Quinn to match his eye-opening numbers from 2013 to meet their expectations. Nagy believes that the pass rush trio of Quinn, Hicks and Khalil Mack should create headaches for opposing offensive lines.
"When you have 52 (Mack) and 94 (Quinn) on the edge," said Nagy, "and you've got Hicks and some of these other guys pushing the middle, I thought that our defensive line, including outside linebackers on the edge, I thought they worked well in tandem yesterday."
Considering Quinn's age and recent injury, the Bears may keep his snap count down while he adjusts to playing alongside his new teammates. If Sunday was any indication, it only takes one play for Quinn to change the game.
"The 20-something snaps that Robert Quinn was in there," said Nagy, "I think is just right, right now, as he comes back in. But you can feel, and you've gotta know when he's out there on that field, that he can be coming around that edge pretty fast, and now you've got Khalil on that other side. That's why he's here."