Bears Defensive Starter Hints at Position Switch This Season

Robert Quinn OLB DE

Getty Bears defender Robert Quinn may be changing things back to how they used to be this year.

Robert Quinn may be getting back to his natural position. The Chicago Bears pass rusher played outside linebacker last year, which wasn’t his ideal spot. The veteran defender made a note before last season even began laying his preferences out, noting OLB wasn’t his ideal position — defensive end was. Yet former Bears defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano chose to move Quinn around more, and the results were not good.

In his first year with the Bears in 2020, Quinn spent 7.2% of his snaps in coverage — a career high. His second-highest was when he played 4.7% of coverage snaps with the L.A. Rams in 2017 — which was the year the Rams switched from a 4-3 defense to a 3-4, and Quinn struggled.

This should have told Pagano and company something about how Quinn best functions on the defensive line — the veteran pass rusher even expressed his disdain for playing in 3-4 defenses publicly in the past — but Pagano still tried to fit a square peg into a round hole. In a recent interview with the media, Quinn revealed that probably won’t happen again this year.

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Quinn Should Be at DE in 2021

Quinn played in 15 games for the Bears last year, starting 13. He finished the season with 20 total tackles (14 solo, none for loss), 2.0 sacks, 6 quarterback hits and 3 forced fumbles. He earned a 59.7 overall grade from Pro Football Focus last year, logging 348 pass rush snaps and 173 snaps on run defense. Per PFF, he did get into the backfield a decent amount, netting 24 hurries and 32 total pressures.

Quinn’s struggles at OLB are something the Bears should have easily seen coming — his 2017 season with the Rams being a blinking neon clue — but they chose not to see the warning signs.

Pagano, of course, ran a 3-4 defense, and didn’t utilize Quinn in the ways the veteran was accustomed to, often deploying Quinn in pass coverage — not his strong suit. Defensive end is his strong suit. Quinn thinks things will be much better for him this season with new Bears DC Sean Desai leading the way.

“If you’ve known my career, if you know me, you know where I like to be,” Quinn said, when asked how Desai can bring out the best in him, via Adam Hoge of NBC Sports. “I think (Desai) knows where I’m best dominant at. At the end of the day, you got to do what best fits the team but also what best fits the players to get the best out of the player … I think we’re all on the same page. I get the opportunity to hopefully re-prove myself and hopefully earn the respect — or however you want to say it — from the guys (and) make sure I don’t disappoint them with the season like I did last year.”

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Quinn is Key to Bears Defense in 2021

In order to best optimize players like Akiem Hicks and Khalil Mack, Quinn needs to be playing at a high level, as well. He says he’s far more comfortable on ‘D’ heading into Year 2 in Chicago.

“Everyone is on the same page, and we understand what I need and what the team needs from me,” Quinn said. “I’ll just leave it at that. They know where I’m best at, and we’ll just keep it there.” It sure sounds like he’ll be taking the bulk of his snaps at defensive end under Desai.

The veteran pass rusher is also well-aware of the down year he had in 2020, and he’s eager to make amends on the field this season.

“I’ll be honest: Just a terrible year for me, personally,” Quinn said about his performance last season. “It was a bad year. Yeah. Unless you like those types of stats.”

One good thing about bad seasons? You can bounce back in a hurry — and that’s what Quinn is looking to do.

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