Robert Quinn wasn’t just the Dolphins’ most expensive offseason acquisition.
He might hold the key to their entire defense.
The Dolphins need him to be the pass-rushing wingman Cameron Wake has lacked since Olivier Vernon signed with the Giants.
Starting Thursday, we’ll see if Quinn can be that guy. He is set to make his Dolphins debut in Miami’s preseason opener against the Buccaneers.
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“It’ll be a great feeling,” said Quinn, acquired by the Dolphins from the Rams via trade this offseason. “We’ve been here going against our teammates for a week or two weeks or however [long] it’s been. As fun as it is to get back to playing football, it’s a lot more fun to actually play some games and to get our mind off of camp mode, so I think that will be a great thing, just to get back to actually reap some benefits of the hard work we’ve been doing.”
Quinn is back playing his natural position — defensive end — after being asked to play 3-4 linebacker in Los Angeles last year. And that change seems to have done him good, regularly beating Laremy Tunsil and getting to Ryan Tannehill in practice.
Still, can he be the guy who had 40 sacks from 2012-2014? Or have injuries and age slowed him down, and are his 17 1/2 sacks over the last three years more reflective of his current ability?
That answer will go a long way in determining if the Dolphins’ pass rush is significantly better than the group that ranked 26th in sacks last year with 30.
The defensive front as a whole has looked great the last two weeks, but is that just a function of the Dolphins’ offensive line playing poorly?
We’ve been fooled in years past by such a showing, only to have Wake get little help during the regular season. Since Wake entered the league in 2009, only one other Dolphins defender — Vernon in 2013 — has had double-digit sacks.
Thursday against Tampa Bay should be a better gauge of this group’s ability, beginning with Quinn.
“[Make] sure that I get off on the ball fast, like any D-lineman wants to,” Quinn said of his plan for Thursday. “Work on my hands. Just basic D-line stuff but get it at a game speed. We can practice as fast as ever out here but there’s nothing like a game. It’s more of just getting that game reality, that game speed back underneath my belt and to see if I’ve got everything clicking again.”
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