Chicago Bears hope new addition Quinn can help bring out best in Mack
Bears defensive coaches spoke to reporters Thursday and the general 2020 game plan quickly became obvious.
They hope adding free agent linebacker Robert Quinn to one side will open up Khalil Mack on the other side to have the kind of monster of the midway year he unleashed in 2018.
"It is exciting, because I think the two of them can make each other better on a daily basis, and I also think we're going to present different things to the offenses we play," outside linebackers coach Ted Monachino said on a teleconference.
Quinn, 30, piled up 11.5 sacks last season for the Dallas Cowboys. He signed a five-year deal with the Bears on April 1.
The 6-foot-4 Quinn spent the first seven years of his NFL career with the St. Louis and Los Angeles Rams, peaking at 19 sacks in 2013.
"Obviously his resume speaks for itself," defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano said. "He's a guy that everybody thinks he can rush the passer, but he's relentless, he's athletic, he's tough, he's physical. He'll play really good against the run. He's a great pro, he's a great teammate, a great person."
But will Quinn help Mack reach his 2018 production? Mack's sacks dropped from 12.5 in 2018 to 8.5 last season, which doesn't seem like a huge drop.
The Bears' overall defensive production rolled off the table, though. They went from 50 sacks (third in the NFL) in 2018 to 32 last fall (24th). The take-aways plummeted from 36 (first in the league) to 19 (22nd).
Probably none of this was Mack's fault, but there's no question he received a large amount of attention from opposing blockers and game-planners. If the Bears' plan works, he'll see fewer double-teams this season.
"We're not making any excuses for Kahlil and his lack of production last year as a rusher and neither would he," Monachino said. "I will tell you, if I'm coaching offense and I've got a dominant player on the other side, I'm going to tend to that player on every snap."
Even though the Bears have been locked out of Halas Hall for the past three months due to the pandemic, Monachino has confidence Mack is motivated.
"He is in the process of putting together a really good off-season," Monachino said. "He's training like I've never seen anyone train before."
Quinn replaces Leonard Floyd, the 2016 first-round draft pick who recorded 3 sacks last fall. Floyd's sack total dropped for the fourth straight year, and he's now with the Rams.
One potential issue is Quinn has spent most of his career as a 4-3 defensive end. The Bears are asking him to be a 3-4 outside linebacker.
"Coach Pagano isn't really going to change his defense because of me," Quinn said last week. "I've got to fit his defense. I just try to pick it up as best as possible."
Pagano didn't dodge the fact that this could be an uncomfortable shift for Quinn. He told the story of having to sell Robert Mathis on the idea of playing a 3-4 when Pagano became head coach in Indianapolis.
During his second season in Pagano's defense, Mathis led the league with 19.5 sacks at age 32.
Pagano said Mathis was a free agent at the time, so he could have walked away from the position change. He had a choice.
"It took a long time, a lot of film, a lot of dialogue to get him (Mathis) to say, 'OK, I'm in. I can handle that job description,' " Pagano said. "So there's definitely some hurdles to get over, but we'll do the right thing for Robert. We'll do the right thing for the entire defense to put them all in the best possible position to be successful."
Pagano also recruited Quinn to the University of North Carolina but left for a job with the Baltimore Ravens before Quinn arrived on campus.