Forget Me Not
DiCecco: Once Mighty Quinn Eyes Playoff Resurgence
The Eagles’ locker room buzzed with measured celebration following Sunday’s 22-16 victory over the New York Giants, which clinched the NFC East and the No. 1 seed in the playoffs.
As usual, the corner occupied by defensive backs Darius Slay, James Bradberry, C.J. Gardner-Johnson and K’Von Wallace became a media hotspot.
Elsewhere, various Eagles held court in front of their respective lockers, effectively putting a bow on a historic regular season while simultaneously anticipating the onset of a new beginning.
At his stall, defensive end Robert Quinn stood alone as if unnoticed, soon to venture into the brisk South Philadelphia evening air. A nearby shelf temporarily held the veteran’s newly-minted NFC East Champions hat as he gathered his belongings.
The 32-year-old, returning from a knee injury that cost him five games, had just put together his best game as an Eagle despite not appearing on the stat sheet.
“It felt good,” Quinn said after the game. “Of course, knocking off the early rust, trying to get into game speed. But it felt good to get back out there.”
In the season finale, Quinn served as a reminder of what Eagles brass envisioned from the start when the team pulled the trigger on a trade with the Chicago Bears on Oct. 26.
With 10:17 remaining in the second quarter, and the Giants backed up at their own 25-yard line, quarterback Davis Webb received the snap from center Nick Gates but was quickly forced to retreat.
Tyre Phillips did his best impression of a turnstile as an unfamiliar No. 98 accelerated past him with ease, bearing down on the flustered Webb.
Although Webb escaped the sack, his pass to tight end Nick Vannett fell incomplete, and Quinn’s turbo-charged get-off had nearly resulted in his first sack since Week 2.
“Yeah, I got close,” Quinn smirked, “but they say no cigar.”
In most years, Quinn – currently seventh among active NFL sack leaders (102) – would have been in high demand from the media after games.
But in the 10 prior weeks since joining the Eagles via the trade deadline deal with the Bears in exchange for a fourth-round pick, some of Quinn’s luster was lost.
The three-time Pro Bowler and 2013 All-Pro showed little reason for optimism, contributing just two tackles and a pair of quarterback hits through five games.
It seemed the explosive traits and relentless motor that once placed Quinn atop the NFL pass-rush hierarchy – he registered 18.5 sacks with the Bears merely a season ago – were eroding with each snap.
The proactive move made to bolster the team’s star-studded pass rush ahead of the stretch run appeared to be one of Executive Vice President/General Manager Howie Roseman’s rare whiffs.
From Quinn’s perspective, however, other obstacles had contributed to his slow start, including adjusting to new teammates and a foreign playbook midseason along with suffering a back injury ahead of the team’s Week 11 game against the Colts.
The 6-foot-4, 245-pound edge rusher still managed to play that week and the following against the Giants at MetLife Stadium.
Two weeks later, he wasn’t as fortunate.
Leading up to the Eagles’ Week 13 matchup with the Titans, Quinn popped up on the Friday injury report with a knee injury. An inactive on gameday, Quinn was promptly placed on injured reserve two days later, where he was to be sidelined for at least four games.
While awaiting clearance, Quinn attacked his rehab head-on, doing everything within his power to avoid setbacks.
“Early mornings, late nights,” Quinn said. “I mean, honestly, just really trying to get back healthy. Of course, meetings and stuff like that, but at the end of the day, I could only do so much. So, just more of staying focused on the playbook when I couldn’t be on the field.”
But despite the hapless start to Quinn’s tenure, something else was surely amiss.
The subdued, Philadelphia version of Robert Quinn was a far cry from the one who flashed on film earlier this season. And despite the consensus, Quinn believes he has more fuel in the reserves than others might think.
In Sunday’s game, Quinn demonstrated he could be a valuable cog for the NFL’s most lethal pass-rush rotation when healthy.
Assuming he’s able to consistently flush quarterbacks out of the pocket and alleviate pressure on the secondary for 15-to-18 snaps a game in the playoffs, the steep deadline acquisition will pay dividends.
If Quinn makes even one impactful play in the postseason – where the margin for error is minute – the trade could be considered a win.
I’m convinced he will.
As the Eagles gear up for what they hope will be a deep postseason run, a seemingly rejuvenated Quinn is eager to play a complementary role on a loaded unit while continuing his focus on mastering coordinator Jonathan Gannon’s defense.
“Learning the defense as best as possible, from what they expect from the d-ends,” Quinn explained. “And try to capitalize on my opportunities whenever I get ‘em. You know, our d-line is pretty stacked.
“The guys that have been playin’ have been eatin’ up, so whenever I get my opportunities, I just try to make the most out of it and cheer ‘em on afterwards when I’m not out there.”
– Andrew DiCecco (@ADiCeccoNFL) is a Staff Reporter/Content Producer for InsideTheBirds.com.
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