It's still early in the season, but one Bears veteran is enjoying a mini-resurgence following a disappointing 2020 campaign.
Outside linebacker Robert Quinn has recorded a team-high 4.0 sacks in the first three games, doubling his total of 2.0 from all of last season. The 11th-year pro is tied for fourth in the NFL with the Broncos' Von Miller and the Vikings' Danielle Hunter, trailing only the Browns' Myles Garrett (5.5), the Cardinals' Chandler Jones (5.0) and the Panthers' Haason Reddick (4.5).
"Rob's off to a good start this year," said outside linebackers coach Bill Shuey. "He's put in the work. He's taking care of his body, and I think that's helped him. And I think he knows his identity, and he's playing to his strengths right now."
With Quinn having produced 36 percent of their sacks, the Bears rank third in the NFL with 11.0 sacks, behind only the Panthers (14.0) and Browns (12.0).
"I think he's more dialed into situation football in terms of understanding backfield sets, down and distance and those types of things; to understand when he has to play certain techniques and when he might be able to get off the ball a little bit more and rush the passer," Shuey said.
Quinn signed a five-year contract with the Bears last year. He arrived having appeared in 125 NFL games with 106 starts over nine seasons with the Rams (2011-17), Dolphins (2018) and Cowboys (2019), recording 290 tackles, 80.5 sacks, 90 tackles-for-loss, 25 forced fumbles and 20 pass breakups.
Quinn was chosen by the Rams with the 14th pick in the first round of the 2011 NFL Draft out of North Carolina. He emerged as a star in his second season in 2012, compiling 10.5 sacks and 11 tackles-for-loss.
Quinn continued to ascend in 2013, establishing career highs with 19.0 sacks, a league-leading 23 tackles-for-loss, 34 quarterback hits, seven forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries—one of which he returned 31 yards for a touchdown in a 42-21 win over the Bears in St. Louis. His performance earned him first-team All-Pro honors and his first trip to the Pro Bowl.
Quinn returned to the Pro Bowl in 2014 when he registered 10.5 sacks, 13 tackles-for-loss and a league-leading five forced fumbles. In 48 games over three seasons with the Rams from 2012-14, Quinn amassed 40.0 sacks, 47 tackles-for-loss, 71 quarterback hits and 13 forced fumbles.
After being hampered by injuries in 2015-16, Quinn returned to play a full season in 2017. He was then traded by the Rams to the Dolphins on March 14, 2018. In his only season in Miami, Quinn started all 16 games and recorded 6.5 sacks.
Traded to the Cowboys on March 28, 2019, Quinn had a resurgent season while starting all 14 games he played. His team-leading 11.5 sacks and 22 quarterback hits were his most since 2013 and his 13 tackles-for-loss were his most since 2014.
In his first season with the Bears, however, his production dropped dramatically. A year later, he's determined to prove that what transpired in 2020 was an anomaly.
"For me personally, just knowing Robert, I'm happy for him as a person because I know that there were certain challenges last year in terms of where his expectations were for himself," Shuey said. "There was frustration because he's his own roughest critic. He's hard on himself sometimes. I'm glad to see him having some success."
Shuey views Quinn as a veteran who's pleased with his hot start—but also one who's driven to keep improving over the course of a long season.
"You see a player who's enjoying playing the game," Shuey said. "He doesn't want to come out and those type of things. But you will always see a player when things are going well that doesn't ride that wave too high. Like he knows where to cap it, he stays fairly level-headed with that stuff. So, even when he's having a game where it might be a productive game and everything else, he's still looking for ways to get better. That's one of those things I think that's carried him this far in his career."