There seem to be quite a few Cowboys fans concerned with, on the heels of giving up multiple sacks and pressures in the first quarter of last week’s game, how will Doug Free handle sackmaster Robert Quinn.
He probably won’t, and that’s probably by design of the St. Louis Rams themselves. Head coach Jeff Fisher and defensive coordinator Greg Williams are firm believers in players sticking to the roles they do best. Robert Quinn is a weakside pass rusher, almost exclusively. He’s really good at it. Last year he was second in the league with 19 sacks. It’s a safe bet that the braintrust in St. Louis is making the right call by keeping Quinn at home. They also likely made the right call by making him one of the richest defenders in the game, signing him to a 4 year, $57m extension last weekend.
In 2013, according to Pro Football Focus who track these sorts of things extremely well, Quinn pass rushed on 478 snaps. For 473 of them, he was lined up at right defensive end. Only three times did he line up on the left side, and only once in the middle. In 2014, he has pass rushed 36 times; all 36 times have come from RDE.
So while he might occasionally stunt inside, the majority of the time, the only man that needs to be concerned with franchise pass rusher Robert Quinn, will be Cowboys’ franchise left tackle Tyron Smith.
The Tyronasaurus is looking forward to the challenge.
Smith has his own brand new 2014 contract, adding eight years to the two already remaining. He’s scheduled to earn over $100m dollars between this season and the 2025 calendar year to stop guys like Robert Quinn.
Last year in a Week 3 matchup between the two teams in Dallas, Smith did just that. Battling exclusively against the Cowboys stalwart tackle, Quinn had his worst pass rushing game of 2013. He managed zero sacks, zero quarterback hits, and only one quarterback pressure. Upon reviewing the game, Quinn did have an additional pressure early in the third quarter that was negated by offsetting penalties, but the point remains the same.
In the first battle between two of the NFL’s young stars, the decision went to Smith and the Cowboys, who dominated action from start to finish. Dallas built a huge lead on the back of DeMarco Murray gashing the Rams defense to the tune of 175 yards and a score. A relatively healthy Romo had an efficient 210 yard, 3 touchdown passing day and Dallas eased to a 31-7 victory. The league's leading rusher will look to become the first Cowboys running back to start the season with three consecutive 100 yard games since Emmitt Smith did in for the first four games of 1995. Tony Dorsett also did it in the first three games back in 1981.
With no Robert Quinn to worry about, Doug Free’s afternoon is made even easier with the absence of Rams LDE Chris Long. Long suffered an ankle injury in Week 1 and is on the IR/D list until the second half of the season. In his place, the Rams are attacking with a combination of William Hayes and Eugene Sims. They currently are rated as the worst pass rushing grades on the Rams, with each sporting matching -1.9 grades.
If this early season trend continues, the Cowboys maligned pass protection might finally have an opponent against which it can find its footing. The key matchups, outside of Quinn vs Smith which should be watched all afternoon, might be the rotation of the Rams 1 and 3 techs against embattled Ron Leary. Michael Brockers, Kendall Langford and rookie Aaron Donald will have that privilege.