OUT­SIDE LINESACKER

Pass rusher Quinn re­places Floyd, who was ver­sa­tile but didn’t get to QB enough

Chicago Sun-Times - - SPORTS - MARK PO­TASH mpotash@sun­times.com | @MarkPo­tash

From for­mer Bears de­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tors Greg Blache and Vic Fan­gio to cur­rent out­side lineback­ers coach Ted Monachino, foot­ball coaches have bris­tled at our ob­ses­sion with sacks as a defin­ing statis­tic.

There’s more to de­fen­sive foot­ball than sacks, they in­sist. And the coun­ter­ar­gu­ment is al­ways the same: When NFL teams stop pay­ing for sacks, we’ll stop us­ing them as a mea­sure­ment of suc­cess for pass rush­ers.

So even though out­side line­backer Leonard Floyd did other things that made him valu­able to the Bears’ de­fense, his three sacks last sea­son — only one in the last 15 games — op­po­site Khalil Mack left a siz­able void in a de­fense that lost its bite.

And gen­eral man­ager Ryan Pace, while sup­port­ive of his 2016 first-round pick, tac­itly agreed. He didn’t just try to find a bet­ter Leonard Floyd, a mul­ti­fac­eted out­side line­backer. He signed the best pass rusher/closer he could find: Robert Quinn, a 4-3 de­fen­sive end wired to get the quar­ter­back.

The mes­sage was clear. The Bears des­per­ately needed a pass rusher who could fin­ish, and they were will­ing to take some risk to get one. Quinn has played out­side line­backer in a 3-4 de­fense be­fore — with the Rams in 2017, when he had 8½ sacks. But even Bears coaches ac­knowl­edge there will be a tran­si­tion, and ad­just­ments will be needed to make it work.

As with any player mak­ing the tran­si­tion, a lot de­pends on how quickly Quinn learns, Monachino said. But the Bears aren’t go­ing to try to make him some­thing he’s not. Quinn is prob­a­bly not go­ing to be in cov­er­age as much as Floyd was. He might not be as ef­fec­tive against the run as Floyd was. The Bears just want him to be the best pass rusher he can be.

“Robert Quinn has a dom­i­nant trait, and we are go­ing to try to use that dom­i­nant trait as much as we can,” Monachino said. “I think what we’ve gotta un­der­stand is that this guy is a sit­u­a­tional foot­ball player. He’s a guy that can play in ev­ery sit­u­a­tion, but there are some sit­u­a­tions that he’s go­ing to be bet­ter in, and those are the things we’re go­ing to fo­cus on with Robert.”

The lim­ited off­sea­son be­cause of the COVID-19 pan­demic stunted Quinn’s tran­si­tion to Chuck Pagano’s de­fense and the out­side line­backer po­si­tion. Even Pagano has ac­knowl­edged it’s not go­ing to be easy. But early in­di­ca­tions are that Quinn — who once called his 3-4 role with the Rams “suf­fo­cat­ing” — has the right tem­per­a­ment to han­dle it.

“Robert is as calm and col­lected as any player I’ve ever worked with,” Monachino said. “You can’t shake the guy. He’s been through enough in his life that you can’t throw any­thing at him that would get him side­ways.”

It re­mains to be seen just how “sit­u­a­tional” Quinn be­comes in the Bears’ de­fense. For what it’s worth, Monachino listed holdovers Isa­iah Irv­ing and James Vaugh­ters and new­comer Barke­vi­ous Mingo as com­peti­tors for the No. 3 spot in the out­side line­backer ro­ta­tion.

Mingo, the sixth over­all pick of the 2013 draft by the Browns, has made his big­gest im­pact in seven NFL sea­sons on spe­cial teams.

But in a de­fense with many play­mak­ers, a player of his abil­ity could make an im­pact.

“I have a 100% con­fi­dence that Barke­vi­ous can etch him­self out a role de­fen­sively,” said Monachino, who also coached Mingo with the Colts in 2017, when he started six games. “We were in a sit­u­a­tion in Indy when [John Si­mon] got hurt that Barke­vi­ous had to play a ton of de­fense for us. [He] made plays, [played] sound, solid de­fense for us. So [I’m] not ner­vous at all or afraid of putting him in the game at any point in any sit­u­a­tion — cov­er­age, rush, run game. We can do all that with him.”

The week be­fore the Bears hold their first padded prac­tice, Eddy Pineiro seems to have won the kicker derby.

On Tues­day, the Bears waived Ramiz Ahmed, the for­mer Ne­vada player they signed in April to push Pineiro.

The Bears weren’t shy about pro­mot­ing com­pe­ti­tion for the kicker job a year ago. To re­place Cody Parkey, they held a kicker derby dur­ing the 2019 rookie mini­camp, then sent a con­di­tional sev­enth-round pick to the Raiders for Pineiro. He beat out El­liott Fry dur­ing train­ing camp and served as the team’s kicker for the sea­son, mak­ing 23 of 28 field goals.

The Bears asked Pineiro to put on mass dur­ing the off­sea­son. Last week, spe­cial­teams co­or­di­na­tor Chris Tabor said he had added weight and de­creased his body fat. He said the ball was “jump­ing off his foot re­ally well” dur­ing the early part of train­ing camp.

“Last year was [Pineiro’s] first full NFL sea­son,” Tabor said. “So I think that’s why him putting on the weight and be­ing able to han­dle it as it gets colder and the ball isn’t fly­ing as far, be­ing able to use some of those at­tributes that he has, that is go­ing to ben­e­fit him.

“We’re go­ing to put pres­sure on him, and he puts pres­sure on him­self. And that’s what I love about the kid. We have not ar­rived at that kick­ing spot. We are al­ways a work in progress, and we still have things to prove, and we’re ex­cited to get back out on the field.”

To fill the open ros­ter spot, the Bears agreed to a deal with safety Mar­qui Chris­tian, sources said. He’s sus­pended for the first two games of 2020 but could fill a spe­cial-teams role sim­i­lar to that of safety Jor­dan Lu­cas, who opted out last week.

Chris­tian, who was close to a deal with the Jets in March, was the Car­di­nals’ fifth-round pick in 2016 be­fore get­ting cut a month into the sea­son.

In four years with the Rams, he started one game but ranked se­cond on the team in spe­cial-teams snaps in 2018 and 2019, to­tal­ing 733 downs.

RICHARD RO­DRIGUEZ/GETTY IMAGES

“HE’S A GUY THAT CAN PLAY IN EV­ERY SIT­U­A­TION, BUT THERE ARE SOME SIT­U­A­TIONS THAT HE’S GO­ING TO BE BET­TER IN, AND THOSE ARE THE THINGS WE’RE GO­ING TO FO­CUS ON WITH ROBERT.” TED MONACHINO, Bears out­side lineback­ers coach, on Robert Quinn Robert Quinn had 11½ sacks with the Cow­boys last sea­son.

Ramiz Ahmed

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