During the month of May, possibly the slowest football month of the entire year, it is hard to produce any topics that are not pure speculation. This is one of those purely speculative articles.
Robert Quinn is being tossed into a rather favorable situation in St. Louis- the most obvious factors supporting that statement are 1) He’s playing on a line with Chris Long, James Hall and Fred Robbins; and 2) The defensive-line is head coach Steve Spagnuolo’s forte.
Here are some of the other early favorites for the ‘Defensive Rookie of the Year’ award…
Patrick Peterson CB Arizona Cardinals: Peterson was generally considered the best overall player in the draft, but he slipped to Arizona at No.5 due to his position (cornerback) not being a very valuable one. He will have the luxury of playing with two pro-bowlers in the secondary (Dominique Rogers-Cromartie, Adrian Wilson), but the team is lacking talent at almost every other position (except wide-receiver). The Cardinals’ horrid offense, as well as their deplorable defensive-line, will make it difficult for Peterson to shine.
Von Miller LB Denver Broncos: The Broncos finished at, or near the bottom of every defensive team stat. The most embarrassing being their ranking of 32nd (dead last) in overall defense (average yards per game). Miller will certainly be getting some help from all-pro defensive-end Elvis Dumervil, who will be returning after a season-ending injury sustained early in the 2010 season, but there won’t be much help outside of that. Miller will have to do a lot on his own if he wants to shine as a rookie.
Marcell Dareus DT Buffalo Bills: The main thing working against Dareus isn’t even the fact that Buffalo finished dead last against the run in 2010. It’s the position he plays. Yes, Ndamekong Suh just won ‘Defensive Rookie of the Year’ last season, and he plays the same position. But that’s exactly the point- it takes a freak of nature like Suh to win the award as a defensive-tackle. And does anyone honestly consider Dareus a similar prospect to Suh? Well you shouldn’t, because it’s not even close.
Nick Fairley DT Detroit Lions: Just like Dareus, Fairley has the defensive-tackle factor working against him, but Fairley’s situation is a bit different. He will be playing on a line that will feature Suh, as well as Kyle Vanden-Bosch. The two of them will demand lots of attention from opposing offensive-lines, which will practically leave Fairley wide open. Also, Fairley is the best defensive-tackle of the 2011 draft. Take away his questionable attitude, and he gets picked ahead of Dareus. If there’s a defensive-tackle capable of taking the award for the second straight year, then it’s going to be Fairley. He is in the best situation, and he’s the prospect that comes the closest to Suh’s overall talent.
Now, let’s look at the trends of the award as far as position is concerned…
Six of the last ten awards have gone to linebackers. One has gone to a defensive-tackle (Suh), and one to a pure defensive-end (Julius Peppers). The other two went to Shawne Merriman and Terrell Suggs, who are both listed as linebackers, but that’s only because of the scheme they play in. They’d be considered defensive-ends in the Rams’ defense.
Those numbers certainly help the argument for Von Miller. But when the award doesn’t go to a linebacker, or a freak of nature (Suh), then it goes to a defensive-end.
Seven of the eight linebackers that have won the award in the last 10 years (if you count Merriman and Suggs) were first round draft picks. The sole exception was DeMeco Ryans, who was a second round pick by the Houston Texans. So given that Miller was the only linebacker selected in the first round, it certainly hurts the chances of the award going to another linebacker.
The Rams’ defense depends heavily on their linemen getting to the quarterback. Veteran James Hall had 10.5 sacks in 2011 as a right-end; which was his first double-digit sack season since 2004, and only the second of his career. So the Rams’ defensive scheme will likely allow Quinn to put up the needed numbers, as long as he earns sufficient playing time and plays at a fairly high level for a rookie.
Given that Quinn is coming to an already solid defensive unit, has suitable veterans to take away some pressure, has a head coach capable of developing lineman, and plays a position that attains a good amount of attention- it’s probably safe to say that the only things standing in his way are 1) Losing a considerable amount of playing time to James Hall, 2) A large learning curve due to not playing in 2010, or 3) Getting flat out beat by another player, such as Von Miller or Nick Fairley.
But fortunately for fans, winning the award is not vital to his career. The Rams likely obtained a heck of a player regardless. But still… it will be a fun thing to keep an eye on.