Robert Quinn receives warm welcome from an Eagles team with Super Bowl aspirations

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Robert Quinn walked into a new locker room Thursday afternoon for the sixth time in his 12-year NFL career. He was welcomed by Brandon Graham, his new teammate, likely pass-rush partner and someone who has spent 13 years in the same locker room.

There’s a part of Quinn that can be accustomed to this type of transition after the Philadelphia Eagles surrendered a fourth-round pick for the 32-year-old, three-time Pro Bowler. It was the third time he’s been traded. He was drafted by the Rams in 2011 and was part of a relocation from St. Louis to Los Angeles, and he also signed a $70 million free-agent contract with the Bears in 2020. For someone who suggested that no one likes change, he’s been involved in much of it.

He confessed that he’s not good with names, but he’s trying his best. He doesn’t want to refer to teammates by jersey numbers, and there are many new players to meet. But he won’t have a hard time remembering Graham.

“To have the O.G. of the team walk up to me,” Quinn said, “makes me feel appreciated.”

There was more to the introduction from Graham than simply an established player greeting a newcomer. He appreciates Quinn because he knows just how significant the trade was for the Eagles.

Quinn is one of seven active players with at least 100 sacks. He led the NFC in sacks last season with 18.5. He now joins a rotation that includes Graham, Haason Reddick and Josh Sweat on the edge. Reddick and Sweat will likely be paired together, with Graham and Quinn expected to be in the next group. It’s a luxury for a team to substitute a pair of edge rushers with 164 career sacks combined.

“He bolsters us up even more to where people got to pick and choose who’s the hot guy, who’s not the hot guy,” Graham said. “You can’t just key in on one guy. So I’m definitely excited to have him.”

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The Eagles are the NFL’s only undefeated team and have held leads of at least 14 points in every game this season. There are bound to be fourth quarters during the next few months when the Eagles are nursing a lead and opposing offenses have no choice but to pass the ball. There are many reasons why a contender would want to acquire Quinn, but for a team that’s preparing to play from ahead, productive — and fresh — pass rushers become paramount.

What makes this type of situation advantageous to a pass rusher?

“I haven’t had many of them,” Quinn said, “so I guess I’m about to find out.”

Quinn has accomplished much in his career, but he hasn’t been part of many winning teams. He’s only been in two postseason games. His teams have won just 42.6 percent of the games he’s played.

There’s a part of Quinn that is so regimented — learn the playbook, meet the teammates, the coaches, the support staff — that it becomes unnecessary to think beyond that day’s tasks. But it’s impossible to join an undefeated team around Halloween and be oblivious to the opportunity ahead.

“They created this record before I got here,” Quinn said. “I just want to come in and do my part, and that starts with learning the playbook.”

Quinn said he was “shocked” by the trade and has told Eagles players he’s still trying to get a grasp of what happened. He didn’t play along with a suggestion that he was unhappy in Chicago, replying with the affection he holds for his teammates. He’s also been involved in coaching changes, so he knew the situation he was in with the Bears.

Quinn has earned a reputation as a respected teammate, and Bears linebacker Roquan Smith became emotional when he learned about the trade. Quinn said the reaction was an example of how he can “take a teammate and turn him into a brother.”

 

For veterans who have played in Philadelphia long enough to share the locker room with Chris Long, they’ve heard him gush about his former teammate in St. Louis. There are members of the coaching staff who have crossed paths with Quinn. And just watching him has left an impression. Reddick, an established double-digit sack producer in the NFL, said he’s eager to learn from Quinn.

Milton Williams, who was 12 when Quinn entered the league, said he’s been watching Quinn rush quarterbacks for almost as long as he’s been watching football.

Even though Quinn has been quiet in 2022, his track record suggests he should help Philadelphia in this area. The Eagles are tied for 10th in the NFL with 17 sacks after finishing 31st last season. They have 10 second-half sacks, but only one in the past two games.

Since Derek Barnett’s season-ending injury in Week 1, the Eagles have used a combination of Patrick Johnson and Tarron Jackson in the role of depth edge rusher. It’s fair to consider Quinn a major upgrade. There are nuances to each defense and terminology that might take time to learn, but fundamentally, Quinn could have an easier entryway to contributing than a player at a different position.

“Because sometimes it’s black and white depending on the scheme, if you can go to the quarterback, the coach is going to put you in position every time,” Graham said. “That’s the easiest thing you can do. … Every time you come in here, I just want you to go (to the quarterback). Until you learn everything, I just want you to go.”

The adjustment for Quinn might be rushing less than he’s used to. He has never played fewer than half of his team’s defensive snaps, although with Reddick and Sweat playing key roles atop the depth chart for the Eagles, it might be hard to approach his Chicago playing time (68 percent of the defensive snaps through seven games). However, this could also be a way to keep Quinn — and the other pass rushers — fresh.

“It is scary when you can make it to the fourth quarter and you’re still feeling like it’s the first, because the O-lineman has to play the whole game,” Graham said. “That’s advantage us.”

When this point was proposed to Lane Johnson, he didn’t dispute it.

“There ain’t a whole lot of good that comes with playing the O-line except the money,” Johnson said. “A lot of times you’re getting (criticized), a lot of times you’re playing all the snaps, the defenders are playing 50 percent, 60 percent of the snaps. They get a sack, they’re f—ing tweeting about it.”

Johnson doesn’t have much experience blocking Quinn. He said the two-time All-Pro often comes from the offense’s left side, but he knows enough about Quinn to realize what makes him special. Johnson emphasized Quinn’s ability to bend the edge. So if the offensive tackle doesn’t get off the ball or lacks a quick lower body, forget blocking Quinn.

“You can’t have enough great pass rushers,” Johnson said. “Him and Sweat on one side, Haason and BG on the other, and the guys in the middle, it’s going to be a tough task to block those guys.”

The Eagles’ remaining schedule includes six games against teams in the top 11 in percentage of sacks allowed. They play five quarterbacks who have fewer than two seasons as a full-time starter. There will be opportunities to build leads and accumulate sacks.

By acquiring Quinn, the Eagles didn’t push all their chips to the middle of the table — they didn’t touch their six draft picks in the first two rounds in 2023 and 2024, and the salary cap ramifications in the middle — but they made the team with the NFL’s best record even stronger.

Players were eager to welcome Quinn in his new locker room, and now he has the chance to make his impact felt on a team with Super Bowl aspirations.

“They’ve been rocking and rolling before I got here,” Quinn said. “I don’t want to mess anything up. I want to add whatever I can to make this team better.”

(Photo: Kevin Sabitus / Getty Images)

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