DALLAS — Defensive end Robert Quinn is a talent that has impressed the Dallas Cowboys since 2011, and now the club has had a chance to see his competitive spirit up close.
As the Cowboys wrap up nine weeks of offseason work that culminated in mandatory veteran minicamp, Quinn has been a free agent addition that has caught coach Jason Garrett's attention.
"Rob's done a really nice job," Garrett told reporters on June 13. "We've gone against him a number of times through the years and we're so impressed when we played against him, just a really, really good football player."
The Cowboys faced Quinn four times since the St. Louis Rams drafted the North Carolina Tar Heel 14th overall in the 2011 NFL draft. Dallas got the better of Quinn's teams with a 3-1 record, but the 6-4, 257-pound edge defender produced eight combined tackles, two tackles for loss, and a forced fumble against the Cowboys.
For Quinn's career, he has tallied 256 total tackles, 69.0 sacks, 23 forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries, and even a fumble returned for a touchdown. Quinn's best two-year stretch was in 2013-14 when he collected two Pro Bowl appearances and a first-team All-Pro selection.
It is the potential, when combined with the likes of war daddy DeMarcus Lawrence and defensive end Randy Gregory, that gives the Cowboys confidence in their outside rush men in 2019, even with Gregory having to beat the NFL's indefinite suspension before he can get around the edge.
Seeing the talent of Quinn from his time with the Rams, Dallas signed Quinn to a one-year deal worth $8 million.
Garrett described Quinn as, "an elite rusher in this league for a number of years and an underrated run defender, he plays hard, he's athletic, he's quick, plays with a determination and that's what we saw from afar competing against him and that's what we've seen since we've had him."
Through nine weeks of the offseason program, Quinn has demonstrated a solemn approach to the job that can rub off onto younger defensive ends such as Dorance Armstrong.
"He's very serious-minded about his job and I think he's really embracing the environment that he's in," said Garrett.
The environment that Quinn is in is one where he gets to have renowned defensive line coach Rod Marinelli, whose best work was with the 2002 Tampa Bay Buccaneers that won Super Bowl XXXVII, as defensive coordinator. Three-time Super Bowl champion Leon Lett, who played defensive tackle for the Cowboys from 1991-2000, coaches the defensive line and no doubt provides Quinn with valuable tools and experience, even at his senior citizen football age of 29 and entering his ninth year.
"He's getting a chance to work with Rod and Leon and some of the other guys on our team," Garrett said. "He comes to work everyday and sets the pace for our team."
Quinn played all 16 games for the Miami Dolphins last season, producing 6.5 sacks for a 7-9 team that fired their coach, Adam Gase, at season's end. For the former Tar Heel, Quinn has a chance to help the Cowboys return to the playoffs, an experience he had just once in his career in 2017 with the Rams, who were bounced out in the wild-card round at home by the Atlanta Falcons.
If the Cowboys can get one last golden year from Quinn and take advantage of his serious approach and his wisdom rubs off on the youngsters while complementing Lawrence and Gregory, Dallas may produce consecutive playoff appearances for the first time since 2006-07.
How do you feel about a tandem of Quinn and Lawrence creating havoc for QBs in 2019? Share your thoughts on the pass rush to Mark on Twitter @therealmarklane.