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Robert Quinn

Robert Quinn ‘Back at Home’ in Eberflus’ 4-3 Defense

  • Carmen Vitali
  • August 3, 2022
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Though Chicago Bears defensive end Robert Quinn is still in a ramp-up period of training camp where he’s not yet participating in the team portions of practice, he’s been in his playbook and familiarizing himself with Head Coach Matt Eberflus’ base 4-3 defense while participating in individual drills each day. Quinn is coming off an 18.5-sack season for Chicago as part of a base 3-4 where Quinn was designated as an outside linebacker. 

Almost every defense in today’s NFL is multiple. Even in 3-4 systems, you’ll often see a lot of four-down fronts as part of a team’s nickel package, which teams are in more and more given the uptick of three and four-receiver sets offensively. There’s simply a premium on back-end defenders. But nuances still exist between the two. For a guy who had so much success as a stand-up rusher last season, switching schemes could bring a player like Quinn pause.

Except this is far from the first time Quinn has been a 4-3 system.

“Most of my career before I came here, I was in a four-three defense,” said Quinn on Tuesday. “I mean, it’s kind of like back at home for me.

“It’s just now I got to put my hand in the dirt, but nothing really changes to play football. This is still kind of all the same.”

Prior to joining the Bears in 2020, Quinn bounced between Miami and Dallas in 2018 and 2019 after being with the Rams for the first seven seasons of his career. Save for one year with the Rams with Wade Phillips as his defensive coordinator, Quinn has been in a 4-3 in all those stops. His lone All-Pro year, where Quinn had 19.0 sacks in 2013, was in a 4-3 system. So while a 3-4 may be a little more creative in how they deploy outside linebackers, rushing off the edge is rushing off the edge—and Quinn will be doing that either way.

“I’m just not trying to do too much and make sure I do my job,” Quinn said. “Just work on the basics of football as a D-lineman: getting off on the ball, turning corners, all that type of stuff. Trying to perfect the little things is important.”

As a guy who’s been in the league for 12 years, this isn’t anything new to Quinn. He’s joined in the pass rushing department by Al-Quadin Muhammad, who while new to the Bears, was with Eberflus in Indianapolis the previous four years. He may be the most familiar with this particular scheme of any player right now.

It should ensure that this Bears’ defense will be set along the defensive front and with the way the defensive backs look in practice, this team could surprise some people on that side of the ball.

More from Bears camp:
  • The pads came on finally at Halas Hall during Tuesday’s practice. When asked if he thought there was a jump in intensity because of it, cornerback Jaylon Johnson replied, “I thought it was already intense without pads.”
  • He isn’t wrong, either. Judging from Monday’s practice without pads, the defensive backs seem to be continuing their intensity. The fact that there hasn’t been an uptick in errors should be taken as a win for the defense, too.
  • Speaking of winning, Johnson was also asked about how the defense is doing overall. He said they haven’t lost a practice yet. Though a lot of times training camp practices favor the offense—especially when not in pads—the fact that the Bears now have a defensive-minded head coach is clearly permeating throughout the team.
  • The offense is taking a little longer to gel. False starts have plagued the team all camp and when asked about it, rookie Braxton Jones said the cadence quarterbacks are using is pretty consistent, they’re just working through it. That would have been an acceptable answer, especially given how much the offensive line is rotating due to the staff trying to evaluate players, except backup quarterback Trevor Siemian also spoke to the media today and directly contradicted that statement from Jones. Siemian said the Bears deploy ‘a ton’ of different cadences in this system and they’re just trying to master it. That’s probably what happens when you ask a rookie offensive tackle about cadences—it’s not as big of a thing in college. But it still doesn’t seem like the offense is quite on the same page.
  • During the middle of practice, the Bears split the field where the offensive line and defensive line did one-on-one drills now that they’re in pads while the skill players did seven-on-seven on the other side of the field. I won’t make you guess which one I watched. I saw Trevis Gipson absolutely manhandle Larry Borom, beating him inside with a swim move in the blink of an eye. Gipson’s get-off looked fantastic while Borom’s reaction time could use some work.
  • The Bears went through a couple two-minute drills to varying degrees of success. They also did situational work, facing scenarios like being down six with 1:20 left on the clock or goal line starting from the 7-yard line. Neither of those quite panned out, with the offense punting on the first and settling for a field goal on the second. Kicker Cairo Santos was good for all of his field goal attempts in practice on Tuesday.

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Carmen Vitali