Rams' Quinn enjoying breakthrough season
St. Louis defensive end has overcome medical odds to set a Rams' franchise record for sacks in a season with 18
He's 6-foot-4, 264 pounds with balance and speed, the kind of athleticism usually found at another position.
Quinn combines exceptional burst -- he ran a 4.51-second 40-yard dash at his pro day -- and the balance he learned while a three-time state high school wrestling champion into a menacing pass-rush combination. He leads the NFL with 18 sacks and counting, a Rams record, which leaves him two short of becoming the 10th player in league history to sack a quarterback 20 times in a season.
"He's been the best one that we've faced, by far," Seattle Seahawks offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell said.
Quinn's athletic ascension was stalled and in doubt when he was a teenager. He first learned of the tumor sitting on top of his spinal cavity his senior year of high school in South Carolina.
In October 2007, Quinn had surgery to reduce the tumor size and remove excess fluid. The tumor was benign, but caused his brain to swell.
He missed two months of athletics, including his final high school football season and a chunk of wrestling season.
Twice a year since, Quinn has a CAT scan to check the tumor.
"I'm sure if things haven't changed by now they won't change forever, but knock on wood, hopefully it stays that way," Quinn said.
Quinn attributes his ability to leverage offensive linemen to his days as a heavyweight wrestler. He says the time on the mat taught him how to manage his body weight and that learning wrestling technique has played a "huge part" in his career.
After being drafted out of the University of North Carolina as the 14th overall pick in 2011, Quinn has upped his sack totals each season. He played 15 games as a rookie and had five sacks. Last season, he played 16 games and had 101/2 sacks.
This season, he has dominated on his way to the St. Louis franchise record for sacks. The first time the Rams played the Seahawks this season -- a 14-9, last-second win for Seattle -- Quinn sacked Russell Wilson three times. On the left end, teammate Chris Long also had three sacks.
"He causes problems whether it's just speed rushing off the end, but they also moved him inside some now," Bevell said. "They'll put him and Long together on the same side so it's just not where you can take care of them, one is on this side, one is on that side."
One particular play from Quinn this season summarizes his talent. Two weeks ago against New Orleans, Quinn lined up on the right side, where he normally appears in his three-point stance.
The Saints used Pro-Bowl tight end Jimmy Graham to chip block Quinn at the snap. Graham departed, then the Saints deployed the left tackle and left guard to double-team Quinn. They knocked him to the ground.
After crawling, Quinn rose to attack quarterback Drew Brees when he stepped forward in the pocket. Reaching out with both hands, Quinn yanked the ball from Brees, then fell on it for a recovery. It took 2.71 seconds.
"That was just one of the best defensive plays that I've ever seen," St. Louis head coach Jeff Fisher said.
The Seahawks were missing left tackle Russell Okung and right tackle Breno Giacomini the first time they faced Quinn.
Both will be back this Sunday, including Okung, who will most often be nose-to-nose with Quinn.
"His athleticism's off the charts," Okung said. "He has really long arms, he plays with his hands extremely well. He has a really good knack for getting around the edge and hitting you inside with a really good counter, too.
"He kind of plays off that, then he gets you into his games and, before you know it, he's trying to set you up. He's a very talented player, man."
Quinn (5) and Long (3) combined to hit Wilson eight times in Week 8.
"I definitely think we have one of the best front four in the game, if not the best," Quinn said. "We got pressure on Russell Wilson, I think we got him rattled a little early, but we weren't able to close out the game. I think we'll somewhat stick to that kind of game plan maybe and we'll see what happens."
Our new comment system is not supported in IE 7. Please upgrade your browser here.