In an effort to get younger this offseason and turn over a new leaf, the St Louis Rams purged much of the 2011 roster including veteran defensive end James Hall. The 35 year old was still productive last year with six sacks after a 10.5 sack campaign in 2010, but the time had come for the team to move toward Robert Quinn as the primary pass rusher on the right side.
One member of the NFC West is happy to see Hall go as San Francisco 49ers’ left tackle Joe Staley said: “I wish him the best. He’s a good guy, but he’s been a pain in my ass for years. God, I hated going against him.”
The Rams are hopeful that Staley will be lamenting Quinn as well sooner rather than later when the two teams meet twice in the upcoming season as divisional foes. Rick Venturi of ESPN in St. Louis believes that Quinn’s development is the most important thing to the Rams’ defense in 2012. According to him: “Quinn has ability — he can burst, he can cut the corner to the quarterback, and he can stretch his body to extremely long lengths, which was evident in his ability to block kicks. Can Waufle get him to be forceful at the point of attack, though? The North Carolina product showed no interest or aptitude to play in the ‘briar patch’ in 2011, and other than ‘chase’ plays was a total liability in the running game. If he can overcome his liabilities, the Rams will have something. To me, this will make or break the front four.”
Obviously having Pro Bowler Chris Long on the opposite side of the line will greatly benefit Quinn, but he is going to have to become an every down player in the year ahead. Playing the run and being strong in the trenches is a necessity when you suit up at the NFL level. Defensive line coach Mike Waufle who was alluded to by Venturi, believes in Quinn and sees tons of potential in the young player. He said: “There’s nothing but upside with Robert. When you’re a student of the game, you’ve got a chance to be able to progress faster. The second thing is that he has speed. He’s ‘God-gifted’ like crazy from top to bottom, and this is a speed game.”
After five sacks, 14 quarterback hits, and three blocked or partially blocked punts on only half of the defensive snaps a year ago, Quinn seems poised to breakout this season. He may have a ways to go before he builds up a reputation for driving opposing offensive linemen crazy, but it’s only a matter of time before they are complaining about him too.
Follow Anthony Blake on Twitter @ChargingBolts or on Facebook at Anthony Mizarkus Blake