Robert Quinn making a case for DPOY

November, 14, 2013
11/14/13
6:15
PM ET
EARTH CITY, Mo. -- Ten games into the 2013 NFL season, there's little doubt that defensive end Robert Quinn has been the St. Louis Rams' best defensive player.

In fact, there's not much room for debate that Quinn has been the team's Most Valuable Player after posting 12 sacks and five forced fumbles in the opening 10 weeks. Quinn did nothing to hurt his case last week against Indianapolis, delivering two sacks and another forced fumble, one that bookend Chris Long returned 45 yards for a touchdown.

Long has never been shy about touting the ability of his pass-rushing tag-team partner, but suggested that Quinn's award candidacy should extend well beyond the walls of Rams Park.

[+] EnlargeRobert Quinn
Nelson Chenault/USA TODAY SportsRobert Quinn is having a monster season with 12 sacks in the first 10 games for the Rams.
"To me, he’s the most dominant defensive player in the league, and if he’s not in contention for all those awards, I think people are being lazy and not watching football," Long said. "He’s been one of the most dominant forces in the game. I’m not surprised by it in the least bit. He’s worked hard and he deserves the recognition."

Adding to that case, Long was asked Wednesday if he believed he and his teammates needed to make a case for Quinn to go to the Pro Bowl, something that we can probably all agree should be a foregone conclusion from this point on.

"If Rob doesn't go to the Pro Bowl they should cancel the Pro Bowl," Long said. "It'll be a travesty, but i've seen stranger things happen. A lot of it is based on a lot of things you can't control. If Rob doesn't go to the Pro Bowl, I don't know what I'm going to do. I might boycott the state of Hawaii or something."

Quinn's case for the Pro Bowl should be open and shut, but the race to win the NFL's Defensive Player of the Year award figures to be more hotly contested.

In addition to his dominance as a pass-rusher, Quinn has proved a much-improved run defender this season. He's also posted 31 tackles, according to Rams' coaches review of the game film. For what it's worth, the folks at Pro Football Focus have also taken notice of Quinn's more well-rounded game.

Quinn is PFF's highest-rated 4-3 defensive end with an overall rating of 36.6. That includes a 6.7 grade against the run. For comparison's sake, Quinn scored a negative-4.8 against the run for the season in 2012.

The pass-rushing numbers are even better. PFF has Quinn down for 28 quarterback hurries and 16 quarterback hits in addition to the dozen sacks. His pass-rushing grade of 30.7 is the best in the NFL, and Houston end J.J. Watt's 30.4 is the only grade even close to him.

For Quinn to win the award, he's going to have to overcome a competitive field and the stigma that comes with playing for a team that likely won't be in the postseason mix. Realistically, he'll probably need to get in the 20-sack range to have a shot, but given his ability and games against teams such as Chicago, Seattle and Arizona with shaky offensive lines, that isn't out of the question.

Here's a look at the competition:

Seattle safety Earl Thomas: The Rams have already seen up close what Thomas can do, as he registered some big stops late to preserve a Seahawks' win. He has 70 tackles, four interceptions and two forced fumbles. Cornerback Richard Sherman is perhaps the league's best cornerback, but it's Thomas that leads Seattle's dominant defense.

Dallas linebacker Sean Lee: He's injured right now, but based on his work this season, he deserves mention here. Lee is third in the league in tackles (93) and tied for second in interceptions with four. If he misses time, he'll probably fall out of contention, but he's been as good as any linebacker in the league so far.

Indianapolis linebacker Robert Mathis: He's emerged as the most feared pass-rusher in the league in 2013, and leads the NFL with 13.5 sacks. If he can continue to drop quarterbacks, he'll have as good a chance as anyone. Sacks are a popular factor in the race for this award.

One of about four Kansas City Chiefs: Pass-rushing outside linebackers Tamba Hali and Justin Houston lead the sack parade in Kansas City, but defensive tackle Dontari Poe helps clear the path for the duo. Derrick Johnson is also having a strong season. Unless one separates from the rest, it might be hard for a Chief to win the award because of a lack of consensus on who is the most deserving.

Carolina linebacker Luke Kuechly: His numbers aren't quite to the level of Lee, but he's the foundation of a Carolina defense in which everything seems to revolve around him. For the season, Kuechly has 75 tackles, a sack and three interceptions.

Nick Wagoner

ESPN St. Louis Rams reporter

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