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Packers must slow Robert Quinn or risk another offensive meltdown

Robert Quinn is one of the NFL’s most dangerous pass rushers, and he should be priority number one for the Packers’ protection scheme.

NFL: Chicago Bears at Green Bay Packers Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

The Packers’ offensive line left much to be desired in Week 1. With David Bakhtiari and Elgton Jenkins on the sideline, the rest of the line didn’t do much to pick up the slack. Jake Hanson, in particular, had a rough afternoon, and Aaron Rodgers faced pressure for most of the game.

Admittedly, some of Rodgers’ issues with pressure were of his own making, but the line didn’t do him any favors. More importantly, things aren’t getting any easier on Sunday, as the Packers will face Robert Quinn, one of the league’s most skilled and productive pass rushers.

Offensive and defensive line analyst Brandon Thorn devotes a good deal of his aptly named “Trench Warfare” Substack publication to a film project he calls True Sack Rate. In it, he watches and grades every (or nearly every) sack from every NFL game, grading them based on degree of difficulty and a few other factors.

By Thorn’s metrics, Quinn was the best pass rusher in the NFL last year, piling up 11 high-quality sacks, three more than the next most productive player in that category. Combined with a few other lower-quality sacks, Quinn earned Thorn’s highest sack score of any player in the league.

Counting more traditional numbers, Quinn was still outstanding. In his age-31 season, he piled up 18.5 sacks, 22 quarterback hits, and 17 tackles for loss, the second-best totals of his career in each of those three categories.

Quinn entered the league as the 14th overall pick in 2011, and has been a bit of an itinerant pass rusher since. He spent the first seven years of his career with the Rams in St. Louis and Los Angeles, had a pair of one-year stints in Miami and Dallas, then joined up with the Bears in 2020. He had just two sacks in his first year with Chicago before exploding in his second, including two pretty solid games against the Packers.

In fact, Quinn has always done pretty well against the Packers. In nine career games against Green Bay, Quinn has registered six sacks, including his two-sack performance in Week 13 last season.

Though athleticism has always been something of a calling card, sheer testing numbers don’t really define his game. He did offer an intriguing overall testing package at the 2011 NFL Combine, but his unimpressive length does take a bit away from that aspect of his game.

The testing numbers don’t tell the whole story, though, because on film two things really jump out about his game: he’s very fast off the line and he has tremendous flexibility. Circling back to Brandon Thorn, here’s a brief cutup of some of the pass-rushing moves he left on the cutting room floor when putting together a package on Quinn. Remember: these aren’t even the very best things he can do.

And here’s what I find the most fascinating: Quinn is a very old-school rusher in that he lines up at one position almost exclusively. Other quarterback hunters thrive by moving around the defensive formation, maximizing their matchups against the weakest part of the offense’s protection scheme. Not Quinn, though. He lines up almost exclusively on the defense’s right side; according to Pro Football Focus, Quinn took exactly one snap at left end in 2021. In the Bears’ season opener against the 49ers, Quinn was on the right side for all 49 of the snaps he played.

The Packers will need to slow Quinn down to help Aaron Rodgers and the offense get back on track, and they’ll know exactly where he’ll be coming from. Whether it’s Yosh Nijman or David Bakhtiari trying to keep him out of the backfield, the result will probably go a long way toward determining the outcome of Sunday’s primetime matchup.

You can check out the odds for this week’s game courtesy of our friends at DraftKings Sportsbook.

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