Jordan Gross knows pass blocking. He’s been doing it at a high level for the Carolina Panthers, whether at right tackle or left, ever since they selected him in the first round of the 2003 NFL Draft out of Utah. He’s been one of the best pass blockers in the league, perhaps even comparable to Joe Thomas, but he has only one All-Pro and two Pro Bowls to his name, primarily due to implosions by Jake Delhomme and Cam Newton, not to mention the maelstrom of ineptitude between the reign of each quarterback. Gross has been lights out for a long time for the Panthers, and he continues to do this.
Gross has been stellar throughout his career and has faced his fair share of studs this year. He was mildly successful against Michael Bennett in the first week of the season, but had some problems against Mario Williams in Buffalo, though Williams did get a few sacks from the right. He dominated Jason Pierre-Paul and did a solid job against Darnell Dockett, probably because Calais Campbell did most of the work. He even held back the aging, but relentless, Jared Allen.
This week, however, will be Gross’s biggest challenge this season, because the athletic powerhouse known as Robert Quinn is coming to Charlotte. Quinn returns to UNC, where he played his college ball, to play his hometown team and go up against a man who has been playing in the NFL before Quinn was even in high school. And while Quinn may not have the pedigree or reputation of Allen or unbelievable size of Williams, he is beginning to show his talent in his production, putting up six sacks so far this season, which is a very scary thing.
Quinn is super-fast off the edge with his first step, routinely beating tackles around the edge. Gross certainly has the footwork prowess to keep himself in front of Quinn, but don’t be shocked if he gets surprised a time or two by Quinn’s get off ability. Quinn is also great at countering to the inside after his initial step, using his great speed and athleticism to set up the lane. The best thing for Gross to do is use his size to his advantage. Gross outweighs Quinn by 40 pounds and is approximately the same height, and that “stockiness” will aid Gross greatly. If Gross can get a good pop on Quinn and disrupt his initial move, then he may have a chance at neutralizing St. Louis’ best defender.