St. Louis Rams: Robert Quinn

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Week 8 of the NFL season is mostly done with only tonight's "Monday Night Football" matchup remaining on the docket.

It was another rough week for the St. Louis Rams and their fans after a 34-7 blowout loss to the Kansas City Chiefs. It could be even worse after the extent of the team's injuries from the game are known.

But we trudge on here with our Monday tradition where all of our ESPN NFL Nation reporters hand out game balls for the best and brightest of Sunday's games.

Once again, the Rams didn't have many options for the award this week but there was one obvious candidate: defensive end Robert Quinn. I chose Quinn because of his five tackles, two sacks, three tackles for loss, two quarterback hits and forced fumble.

While the sacks were good to see, Quinn's forced fumble was the most impressive play of the day as he chased down Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith from behind to knock the ball loose. Unfortunately for the Rams, they could not recover but Quinn has come to life a bit in the past two weeks after a slow start.

I.C.Y.M.I.

A roundup of Sunday's Rams stories appearing on ESPN.com. ... We began the day with a quick roster move for the Rams as they placed cornerback Brandon McGee on injured reserve with a foot injury. ... Rapid Reaction offered quick thoughts and observations from the team's lackluster Sunday outing. ... Locker room buzz took a quick look at the Rams' many walking wounded, among other things. ... One sequence in the second quarter typifies this year's Rams and many editions that have preceded them.

Elsewhere:

Jim Basquil and Ron Jaworski break down the Rams' latest loss.

At stltoday.com, Jeff Gordon offers his weekly grades.

Columnist Bernie Miklasz writes that it's the same old song and dance for the Rams.

Jim Thomas recaps Sunday's loss.

The AP account of Sunday's game.

Rapid Reaction: St. Louis Rams

October, 26, 2014
Oct 26
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KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- A few thoughts on the St. Louis Rams' 34-7 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium:

What it means: The Rams' victory over Seattle last week offered a short respite to forget about all that ails the Rams. But it took only a week for many of those problems to come bubbling to the surface again. The Rams had plenty of chances to jump out to an early lead and make Kansas City work for this one, but instead they reverted to their usual M.O. of self-destruction. Never was that more evident than a second-quarter sequence in which the Rams recovered a fumble at Kansas City's 8 and came away with zero points. The Chiefs scored 34 unanswered points, and that was that. At 2-5 with road trips to San Francisco and Arizona the next two weeks, things such as silly penalties, missed tackles and shoddy pass protection remain at the forefront for this team. Until those things change, the results will remain the same.

Stock watch: Down -- The offense, all of it. After an impressive opening drive, the Rams were wholly ineffective with the ball, with plenty of blame to be spread. Start with ineffective play calling that offered little in the way of creativity or adjustments, then go to an offensive line that was leaking from almost every position to a quarterback who forced a bad interception in the first quarter to receivers failing to create separation. You name it, the Rams did (or didn't do) all of it. All told, the Rams mustered 200 yards of offense, including just 20 in an atrocious third quarter.

Injuries pile up: Speaking of the offensive line, a group that has mostly held up on the injury front finally had the issues that seemed imminent from the start of the season. Guard Rodger Saffold, center Scott Wells and left tackle Jake Long have been injury-prone in the past few years, and it seemed to be a matter of time before it happened again. It happened all at once against Kansas City as Saffold (shoulder), Wells (elbow) and Long (knee) left the game and did not return. Receiver Brian Quick left with an arm injury and also did not come back. The Rams also took major hits at safety, where Rodney McLeod (knee) and Cody Davis (concussion) departed and did not return.

Game ball: Defensive end Robert Quinn. In an ongoing theme this season, there wasn't much to choose from here, but Quinn had his best day of the season, posting back-to-back sacks in the second quarter and forcing an Alex Smith fumble from behind in the opening quarter. After going without a sack in the season's first five games, Quinn has three in the past two weeks and seems to be coming to life.

What's next: The Rams head to San Francisco to take on the 49ers for the second time in four weeks. It will be the second game in a three-game road trip.

W2W4: St. Louis Rams

October, 25, 2014
Oct 25
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EARTH CITY, Mo. -- The St. Louis Rams and Kansas City Chiefs kick off Week 8 on Sunday afternoon at Arrowhead Stadium. Kickoff is set for 1 p.m. ET on regional Fox coverage.

Here are three things to watch from the Rams' perspective:

1. Defending the perimeter: The Chiefs boast one of the NFL's most unique and difficult to defend rushing attacks behind running backs Jamaal Charles and Knile Davis. It's a run game that can beat defenses any number of ways but is particularly tough to stop on the edge. Through six games, the Chiefs are fourth in the league running outside the tackles with an average of 5.96 yards per attempt. That doesn't bode well for a Rams defense, which ranks last in the league in defending runs on the edge by surrendering 8.15 yards per rush on 48 carries. The Rams have struggled with their anchor points with ends William Hayes and Robert Quinn offering inconsistent performances setting the edge and outside linebacker Alec Ogletree overpursuing and missing tackles to lead to big gains out there. The Chiefs will put that to the test early and often.

2. Protection priority: When the Rams' offense is at its best, there is plenty of time for quarterback Austin Davis to throw. Pretty obvious point, right? It is but it's also one that has to be made considering what the Rams have been able to do in games in which Davis has been pressured against ones where he hasn't. In last week's win against Seattle, the Rams allowed no sacks and the Seahawks barely managed any pressure at all as Davis took what the Seahawks' defense gave him. Davis will likely have more opportunities to take deep shots against Kansas City's banged up secondary but those chances won't materialize if Davis doesn't have time to throw. Kansas City is tied for 12th in the league with 17 sacks and though it won't do much exotic blitzing, it can rely on pass rushers Tamba Hali and Justin Houston to generate all the heat it needs.

3. Handling the heat: Arrowhead Stadium is traditionally one of the toughest places to play in the NFL and with the Chiefs back to prominence after last year's playoff appearance, it's as loud as ever when the home team is rolling. While Davis has a couple of tough road games under his belt, particularly the one in Philadelphia, he has never played at Arrowhead or at Qwest Field in Seattle, the two stadiums generally regarded as the league's toughest. The Rams were able to get by Seattle last week in no small part because of their ability to play a clean game with only two penalties (one of which they took by choice) and no turnovers. The Seahawks accommodated that by committing plenty of silly infractions as the Rams posted a plus-69 penalty yard margin, their highest since Jeff Fisher arrived in 2012. But the Chiefs will offer no such help. Kansas City is the least penalized team in the league with 29 infractions for 247 yards.
EARTH CITY, Mo. -- As they make their final preparations for the Kansas City Chiefs, perhaps the St. Louis Rams defense can get some pointers from Vanderbilt alum/running back Zac Stacy.

Vanderbilt's catch phrase -- "Anchor Down" -- makes plenty of sense for the Commodores, but it also is a common refrain in the Rams' hopes of improving a run defense that has been continually gashed on runs outside the tackles this season.

To get better in time for Chiefs running backs Jamaal Charles and Knile Davis and quarterback Alex Smith, setting a consistent edge on the outside is the first order of business.

[+] EnlargeRussell Wilson
AP Photo/L.G. PattersonRussell Wilson rushed for 106 yards on just seven carries against the Rams, who must shore up their run defense.
"We have just got to keep our anchor points," linebacker Jo-Lonn Dunbar said. "It’s something we have failed to do at times. We have got to establish where our anchor points are and those guys have to keep their anchor point so we can keep guys from running away from us."

Through the first six weeks, plenty of opponents have had ample opportunities to run away from the Rams' rush defense. The Rams are 28th in the NFL in rush defense, allowing 145 yards per game.

On closer inspection, the Rams have actually been quite good against the run, so long as it's coming between the tackles. Opponents have run 127 plays between the tackles for a total of 485 yards and two touchdowns. That comes out to 3.82 yards per carry, which is 10th in the NFL.

Where the Rams have gotten in trouble is when opponents attack the perimeter. On 48 rushes outside the tackles, opponents have gained 391 yards and three touchdowns. That average of 8.15 yards per carry is the worst total in the league. It includes big plays such as Minnesota receiver Cordarrelle Patterson's 67-yard touchdown run in Week 1 and Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson's 52-yard scamper last week.

Much of that damage has come from secondary ball carriers after top 'backs such as Adrian Peterson, Marshawn Lynch and Frank Gore have been thwarted up the middle.

Some of the issue comes when players overpursue and find themselves out of their gaps, which can lead to big runs. End Robert Quinn and the defensive line had a few moments like that against Seattle. After finally getting three sacks, the defense thought it could simply go after Wilson, but the lead wasn't big enough nor the game late enough for the Seahawks to abandon the run.

That led to some big openings for Wilson. At other times, the Rams have gotten caught making poor reads. Linebacker Alec Ogletree has been particularly guilty, including a pair of miscues last week that led to long runs for Wilson.

“There’s people taking turns making mistakes," coach Jeff Fisher said. "For example, we anticipated ‘boot’ yesterday. We put our defense in position to defend the ‘boot.' Ogletree’s responsibility was the quarterback, and he couldn’t get him down, and Russell just made a move and walked in. It’s not all 'Tree.' It’s at different times it’s somebody else’s responsibility on the edge.”

That edge will be put to its toughest test Sunday when the Rams take on Charles & Co. The Chiefs have 51 carries for 304 yards and touchdowns outside the tackles this year. That average of 5.96 yards per attempt is fourth-best in the NFL.

With Smith at the controls, the Chiefs still use some of the old zone stretch plays that were their hallmark in previous regimes, but they also mix in plenty of read option. Center Rodney Hudson is particularly adept at pulling into space and going low for blocks that might not wipe out linebackers but do enough to get them on their hands and knees. By the time those linebackers get back to their feet, Charles, Davis or De'Anthony Thomas is already gone.

"It’s just discipline," linebacker James Laurinaitis said. "Sometimes if you are holding the edge, sometimes those guys get greedy. And we are all taking part. It’s not just D-ends, a lot of times you think it’s outside ‘backers, D-ends, but there’s always a guy assigned to keeping the edge.

"I’m encouraged when you look at Gore’s numbers, you look at Lynch’s numbers ... but when you look at the big picture, it’s got to go way down. It’s something we have got to continue to work at."

Rams vs. Seahawks preview

October, 16, 2014
Oct 16
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The St. Louis Rams and Seattle Seahawks are both coming off bitter defeats against top contenders in the NFC in the San Francisco 49ers and Dallas Cowboys, respectively.

Of course, the Rams are coming off three consecutive defeats and are reeling at 1-4 while the Seahawks sit at 3-2 and facing questions about their ability to defend their championship.

Both teams are in need of a victory and the Rams have been a handful for Seattle in St. Louis recently, splitting their last four meetings at the Edward Jones Dome.

Rams reporter Nick Wagoner and Seahawks reporter Terry Blount discuss this week’s matchup:

Wagoner: Terry, it's not often anybody asks about how the Seahawks are going to rebound after a loss, but that's the situation they're in. Of course, that makes for a tough challenge for the Rams. After that dominant season-opening win against Green Bay, the Seahawks seem like they've been a little up and down. What's the reason for the inconsistency?

Blount: Too many reasons to list here, but it boils down to this: They don’t have the depth they had a year ago. The Seahawks lost 11 players that had a total of 58 years of NFL experience. Entering this season, no one really thought it was a big deal because most of the starters were back and the Seahawks had younger players ready to step in who were seen as having more talent than many of the players who left. It hasn’t turned out that way, at least not yet. They don’t have the pass rush they had a year ago and they don’t have the depth in the secondary to make up for the injuries they’ve suffered.

Nick, you’re probably getting this question every week, but people here in Seattle are wondering what in the world has happened to the Rams’ pass rush? They had 53 sacks a year and only one so far this season. What gives? And how is it Robert Quinn doesn’t have a sack?

Wagoner: I think the Rams are wondering what in the world has happened to their pass rush. There are a number of reasons for it, including the loss of defensive end Chris Long to an ankle injury but that’s far from the only issue. Part of it has been a failure to get home on blitzes. Gregg Williams has long been a fan of dialing up the blitz but many of those attempts this year have been poorly conceived, poorly timed, poorly executed or a combination therein. They’ve also struggled to stop the run, which hasn’t given them many opportunities to rush the passer. In fact, they’ve been thrown against the fewest times of any team in the league.

But the bottom line is, whether the Rams are blitzing or not, they simply aren’t getting the job done. Teams are throwing everything at slowing Quinn and that’s worked and the others haven’t been able to generate push on a consistent basis. They’ve been close at times but this isn’t a game of horseshoes. No points for being close.

It's obviously not to the level of the Rams but the Seahawks' pass rush hasn't produced as expected yet either. Why the drop-off and what can they do to improve in that regard?

Blount: The Seahawks lost three players from last year who accounted for 11.5 sacks and 90 tackles in defensive ends Chris Clemons and Red Bryant, and defensive tackle Clinton McDonald. No one has stepped up to replace them. Seattle drafted Cassius Marsh of UCLA as a pass-rushing specialist, but he has no sacks and no quarterback hits. Defensive end Cliff Avril hasn’t adapted well to playing more snaps. He had eight sacks and five forced fumbles in 2013. He has one sack and no forced fumbles in the first five games. Defensive end Michael Bennett, with three sacks, is the only player with more than one sack. Other than blitzing more with their outside linebackers, the Seahawks need Marsh to grow up fast and Avril to start playing at last year’s level.

Nick, the nation got a chance to watch quarterback Austin Davis play Monday night, with mixed results, but he’s still pretty much an unknown around here. What kind of a guy is he and how do you think he has played overall under such difficult circumstances?

Wagoner: The Monday night game was Davis' first chance to play a top-tier defense. I had a feeling that would lead to a regression to the mean -- not that I was going out on a limb there -- and that certainly seemed to be the case despite a hot start. The Rams haven’t helped him with their persistent protection issues, either.

All things considered, though, Davis is a tough, smart young quarterback with some athleticism and a fiery approach that his teammates appreciate. His physical skill set will always be a bit limited compared to other quarterbacks and it’s probably wishful thinking for anyone to hope that he can develop into more than a solid long-term backup. But even if he just becomes that, it’s a nice find given he came in as an undrafted rookie.

Much was made of receiver Doug Baldwin's comments after the loss to Dallas. But I assume he wouldn't have made those comments if there weren’t some truth to them. The run game is still rolling but I think many of us expected more steps forward in the passing game. Why hasn't that part of the game taken off and have you seen the progress from Russell Wilson that you expected?

Blount: There’s a lot of truth to Baldwin’s comments about not playing up to their potential, but Baldwin is a factor in that, as well. He hasn’t played as well as everyone hoped he would in moving outside to replace Golden Tate at split end. Things started off great with Percy Harvin healthy and playing full time, but opposing teams have caught on to what the Seahawks are doing with Harvin on hitch passes, bubble screens and the jet sweep. For example, the Cowboys loaded up on the perimeter at the line of scrimmage and shut down Harvin. They practically dared the Seahawks to throw downfield and it worked except for one long pass to Jermaine Kearse in the first quarter. But the last person to blame is Wilson. He single-handedly won the Monday night game against the Redskins and he engineered the 80-yard drive in overtime that beat the Broncos.

Nick, people here on the West Coast have a lot of interest in whether the Rams will leave St. Louis and move back to Los Angeles. The Seahawks would be all for it because it would give them another game in the Pacific Time Zone and an easier trip. What’s happening on all that? Is it just rumors or is there some truth to it?

Wagoner: Deciphering what’s real and what isn’t at this point is an exercise in futility. Rams owner Stan Kroenke isn’t talking about the subject publicly and it’s hard to believe anyone who says he's doing so privately either. I'm of the belief that everything is still on the table. Is Los Angeles a possibility? Until the Rams have something set in stone in St. Louis, I believe the answer is yes. But it’s not like L.A. has its stuff together for a new stadium yet either. There are so many moving parts to the whole thing it’s hard to imagine that a decision has been made. And even if it has, it would require approval from the other owners to get done. We're not there yet. But I do think it’s safe to assume that the speculation and rumors are just getting warmed up as the Rams head toward the expiration of their lease at the Edward Jones Dome following the season.

EARTH CITY, Mo. -- The St. Louis Rams have just one sack in the first three weeks, and there's nobody more surprised about that than the Rams themselves.

The Rams had more sacks than any team in the NFL in the past two seasons, and the lack of sacks is a growing point of contention for those expecting that to be one area the Rams had squared away entering the season.

During this bye week, the Rams have been open to any and all ways to get the pass rush going, up to and including a little bit of lady luck. Or ladybug luck, as the case may be.

Allow rookie defensive tackle Aaron Donald to explain.

[+] EnlargeRobert Quinn
Jeff Roberson/AP PhotoRobert Quinn had 19 sacks in 2013 but is still looking for his first in 2014.
"Once you get a couple, they are going to keep coming -- that’s the thing," Donald said. "And we have got the ladybug. The sack curse is gone. The ladybug is supposed to be good luck for a D-line. We don’t have the sack curse no more, so these sacks are supposed to start coming around."

Hanging in Donald's locker is a picture of a ladybug with words about the luck of a ladybug breaking the team's "sack curse." According to Donald, a ladybug landed on defensive end Robert Quinn earlier this week. The next day, another landed on defensive tackle Kendall Langford. Donald picked one up on Wednesday.

While insects aren't going to make much of a difference, it's clear the Rams are unhappy with their production to this point and it's a legitimate concern as they enter the final 13 games.

Entymology aside, the only real way for the Rams to get their pass rush to generate more sacks is to do it themselves. The first and most important step is stopping the run. Through three games, the Rams are 29th in the league in run defense, allowing 155 yards per game on the ground.

The result of that rushing success has been, well, a lot of rushing attempts. The 91 rushing attempts against the Rams is tied for sixth-most in the league, and the average of 5.11 yards per attempt puts the Rams at 29th in that category.

In other words, as long as teams are having success on the ground, they have little reason to throw it. Heading into this week's play, opponents have attempted the fewest number of passes in the league against the Rams (69). Oakland is next on that list with 85.

Combine the rushing success with the knowledge of what the Rams can do rushing the passer, and that's a recipe for pass avoidance.

“Well, it’s a combination of things," coach Jeff Fisher said. "It’s been our, I don’t want to say inability, but at times difficulty that we’ve had stopping the run. We’re creating an opportunity for teams to pick up significant gains on the ground. And if anybody had their preference, they do it that way.”

Teams are also continuing the trend set by Minnesota in the first week of getting rid of the ball as quickly as possible. Minnesota quarterback Matt Cassel averaged 2.24 seconds to throw it in the opener, fourth-fastest in the league that week. In Week 2, Tampa Bay's Josh McCown got rid of the ball in 2.22 seconds, which was eighth-fastest that week.

"It’s very frustrating," end Eugene Sims said. "That’s part of offense, scheming against a defense. Our defensive coordinator, Gregg Williams’ background, everybody knows his mindset of defensive plays. So they try to get the ball out of their hands as quick as they can to slow us down."

The lack of pass rush can't all be pinned on quarterbacks getting the ball out quickly or the struggles against the run, though. The Rams had more opportunities last week against Dallas' Tony Romo and were unable to take advantage when facing one of the league's better offensive lines. Romo took 2.61 seconds before release on his 23 attempts.

Some of the problem was the Cowboys' offensive line doing its job and some of it was a scheme in which the Rams rushed only three down linemen on some third-and-long opportunities. With a big lead, the Rams should have been positioned to rush the passer, but they generated little pressure and no sacks.

"For some reason, it’s just not clicking on game day," Quinn said. "I don’t think it’s anything with guys’ effort or technique, it’s just, for whatever reason, not happening our way. But we have got to keep pushing, but once we finally get that break, I’m sure the sacks will come by the handful."

St. Louis Rams OK with early bye

September, 26, 2014
Sep 26
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EARTH CITY, Mo. -- The St. Louis Rams are one of six teams first up in the rotation for a bye with no game scheduled this week.

It's only Week 4, and we're still in September, which could make for an especially brutal grind over the final 13 weeks of the season. But the Rams aren't complaining.

"Coaches never complain about the bye weeks when they come, they never do," Rams coach Jeff Fisher said. "It is a little unusual. This is probably the earliest I’ve ever had one. So you make the most of it. We’ve got an opportunity to get some guys back."

If nothing else, getting some injured players, guys like receiver Tavon Austin (knee), cornerbacks Trumaine Johnson (knee) and Brandon McGee (foot), offensive lineman Barrett Jones (back) and quarterback Shaun Hill (thigh), back after the bye would be a positive result from the week off. It's unlikely that all will return to the field next week but Austin and Hill are close, and the others are "closer" according to Fisher.

As dictated by the collective bargaining agreement, players must have four full days off. After practice Wednesday and Thursday, the Rams are off until next Tuesday.

In the meantime, everybody has a different idea of what they plan to do with the time off. Tight end Lance Kendricks, for example, is planning to get away from it all with a trip to Jamaica.

Oft-injured offensive lineman Rodger Saffold, in a moment of self deprecation, said he plans to do very little.

"Out of everybody in here, you know that I need to be the one to relax," Saffold said. "I’m not trying to jinx myself or hurt myself. Put myself in bubble wrap. I’m not trying to get any colds, sickness, none of that stuff."

Saffold plans to spend his weekend in his home theatre watching football, playing video games and hanging out with his pregnant wife. Defensive end Robert Quinn has similar plans.

"I’ll probably be in St. Louis doing a whole bunch of nothing," Quinn said. "I don’t do much. I’ll kick my feet up with the wife and dog and call it a day."

Of course, the bye week would be a more enjoyable experience for all parties had the Rams not blown a 21-point lead on the way to a 34-31 loss to the Dallas Cowboys last week.

With the extra week off before playing at Philadelphia on Oct. 5, the Rams had more time to stew on the loss. And though they'd much rather get back on the field in a hurry to wipe away the taste of that defeat, they'll take the rest and relaxation as it comes.

"You hate bye weeks after a loss because you are really chomping at the bit to go and play another game and get that sour taste out of your mouth," Saffold said. "But at the same time, I think that’s going to be the fire that continues to help us really work during this bye week."

Breaking down Robert Quinn's contract

September, 17, 2014
Sep 17
2:00
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EARTH CITY, Mo. -- St. Louis Rams defensive end Robert Quinn inked a four-year contract extension with the team on Saturday, a deal that is actually a new six-year contract worth $65.6 million.

Quinn
Now that the details of the contract are available, we can see that Quinn's deal does indeed contain $41.2 million in guarantees though they aren't all technically guaranteed.

As we reported Saturday night, Quinn's salary-cap number for this year is mostly unchanged by the deal. The real big money starts kicking in in 2015 with a salary-cap number reaching in excess of $16 million, which is about $10 million more than it would have been under the fifth-year option the team exercised in the offseason.

"I was really happy for Rob," Rams coach Jeff Fisher said. "As we said we really appreciate (Rams owner) Stan’s (Kroenke) support and approval on this. Rob’s got a chance to be an outstanding defensive player for us for a lot of years, so much deserving of it.”

Here's the full breakdown of Quinn's deal, which is heavy on palindromes and courtesy of ESPN Stats & Info:

2014

Base salary: $608, 608 (prorated for rest of the season from original number of $646,646, all of which is fully guaranteed)

Bonus: $2,296,001

Roster bonus: $0

Cash value: $5,488,731

Cap value: $3,077,958

2015

Base salary: $5,555,555 (Fully guaranteed for injury and becomes fully guaranteed regardless on fifth day of league year)

Signing bonus proration: $955,354

Roster bonus: $10,233,201 (Fully guaranteed)

Cash value: $15,788,756

Cap value: $16,744,110

2016

Base salary: $7,777,777 (guaranteed for injury, becomes fully guaranteed on fifth day of league year)

Signing bonus proration: $955,354

Roster bonus: $2,424,242 (guaranteed for injury, becomes fully guaranteed on fifth day of league year)

Cash value: $10,202,019

Cap value: $11,157,353

2017

Base salary: $6,161,616 (guaranteed for injury, becomes fully guaranteed on fifth day of league year)

Signing bonus proration: $955,354

Roster bonus: $3,633,363 (guaranteed for injury, becomes fully guaranteed on fifth day of league year)

Cash value: $9,794,979

Cap value: $10,750,333

2018

Base salary: $10,333,301

Signing bonus: $955,358

Roster bonus: $1,111,111 (due on fifth day of league year)

Cash value: $11,444,412

Cap value: $12,399,770

2019

Base salary: $11,811,121

Signing bonus: $0

Roster bonus: $1,121,211 (due on fifth day of league year)

Cash value: $12,932,332

Cap value: $12,932,332
TAMPA, Fla. -- Throughout the offseason and into training camp, the St. Louis Rams seemed to be in no hurry to sign defensive end Robert Quinn to a contract extension.

There were no hard deadlines to meet and Quinn was going to remain under team control for at least the next two seasons no matter what. The two sides were talking but there was no sense of urgency. None was needed.

A lack of urgency might have been the exact reason the two sides were able to come to terms on a new six-year contract Saturday afternoon, a deal that will keep Quinn in St. Louis through the 2019 season.

[+] EnlargeRobert Quinn
Jeff Curry/USA TODAY SportsThe Rams and Robert Quinn, who had 19 sacks last season, agreed to a four-year contract extension.
Without having to worry about holdouts or franchise tags, the Rams and Quinn’s representatives were able to work toward a resolution that would allow the team to keep its best player in St. Louis.

Upon reaching an agreement Saturday, the deal looks to be good for both sides. The new deal is worth a total of $65.6 million with $41.2 million guaranteed.

It’s important to note that the deal makes Quinn a Ram through the 2019 season, which means it includes the next two seasons as well. The distinction means the Rams could have a relative bargain on their hands should Quinn continue to ascend as one of the best pass-rushers in the league.

Assuming the numbers are correct, an annual average of about $11 million would be an absolute bargain for Quinn, considering he ranks second only to Houston's J.J. Watt in sacks with 29.5 since 2012.

After Watt agreed on Sept. 2 to a six-year, $100 million deal with $51.8 million guaranteed, making him the highest paid defensive player in the league, it was only logical Quinn would be next in line.

What wasn’t clear was how fast the Rams would put a deal together. On one hand, Watt’s deal offered a baseline for Quinn’s, but on the other, Quinn doesn’t have Watt's lengthy track record of success.

Getting a deal done now allows the Rams to sign Quinn for a number below what Watt received from the Texans, but offers a relative bargain should he continue to perform as he did in 2013 when he posted 19 sacks and seven forced fumbles on his way to first team All-Pro honors.

Had the Rams waited until after the season, they might have faced a price tag closer to Watt’s if Quinn duplicates his 2013 success. In signing Quinn now, the Rams struck a good balance between paying him what he is currently worth, what he could be worth in the future and protecting themselves on the off chance he doesn’t continue at his current trajectory.

For his part, Quinn landed a nice deal with a strong guarantee. That $41.2 million is really the only number that matters here, and it represents a smart play on his part, taking what he can get rather than worrying about it later should he suffer an injury or have a down season. In the process, Quinn gets the chance to set up his family, namely son Robert Jr. for life.

"You have got to take everything into account," Quinn said Saturday night. "Maybe I have another monstrous year, maybe I have a mediocre year. So like I said I am definitely blessed and honored for the Rams to even offer that to me, but I wanted to make sure my son was taken care of. I keep going back to my son because that’s what I kind of play this game for, to make him happy. I, of course, enjoy and love the game but it’s kind of just making sure he’s got a sense of security."

Only time will tell whether this is the rare deal that works well for both sides, and we still need to see the exact breakdown of the financials. But at first blush, it certainly looks like a win-win.

Rams-Buccaneers: Matchup breakdown

September, 13, 2014
Sep 13
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EARTH CITY, Mo. -- A look at three matchups to keep an eye on when the St. Louis Rams and Tampa Bay Buccaneers meet at 4:05 p.m. ET Sunday.

Rams cornerback Janoris Jenkins versus Buccaneers wide receiver Vincent Jackson

With rookie E.J. Gaines starting on the opposite side of Jenkins, the Rams felt comfortable enough with Jenkins that they allowed him to spend much of the opener isolated one-on-one while sending extra help to Gaines' side.

Jenkins had a solid first outing against the Vikings last week and has a history of faring better against bigger receivers. But Jackson has had his share of success against the Rams in the past two seasons and his combination of size and speed always makes for a difficult matchup. In those two meetings over the past two seasons, Jackson has posted 12 catches for 206 yards with no touchdowns.

The Rams have generally opted not to shadow receivers with a particular corner so Jenkins might not be matched up with Jackson at all times. With Gaines still adjusting to the league on the other side and Gaines' previous success against Mike Evans in college, it would serve the Rams well to allow Jenkins to find himself opposite Jackson as much as possible.

Rams right guard Davin Joseph versus Buccaneers defensive tackle Gerald McCoy

These two former teammates should see plenty of each other this week though McCoy has been known to move all over the line at various points during his time in the league. McCoy is one of the game's best defensive tackles, an all around player equally adept at stopping the run as rushing the passer. McCoy picked up where he left off last year in the first week with a sack, a quarterback hit, a quarterback hurry and four tackles.

Joseph, meanwhile, is still hoping to regain the form that once made him one of the league's more effective guards. He struggled against Minnesota last week, a common theme along the offensive line, but he figures to have a little added motivation against the team that released him this week. There's no way the Rams will leave Joseph on his own to handle McCoy but on the occasions the pair do square off one-on-one, Joseph will have to be at his best to have any chance of preventing McCoy from completely wrecking the Rams' game plan.

Rams defensive end Robert Quinn versus Buccaneers left tackle Anthony Collins

I promise not to lean on Quinn versu "Fill in the blank" every week for this feature but I'm going back to the well again this week because of what Quinn was able to do against Tampa Bay in 2013. In the season's second to last week, Quinn thoroughly dominated Tampa left tackle Donald Penn with three sacks, three tackles for loss, four quarterback hits and six tackles.

Not that Quinn was the sole reason the Bucs went looking for an upgrade at left tackle in the offseason but he certainly did his part to ensure they'd spend $30 million over five years to land Collins. Collins had a solid, if unspectacular debut, against Carolina, allowing a single quarterback hit but not offering much in the run game. He'll get another tough test in Quinn this week though it stands to reason the Bucs will do plenty to help Collins out.

The Bucs spent plenty of time throwing extra blockers Quinn's way last season and that will likely continue Sunday. Likewise, the Bucs will probably mix in plenty of short passes to help nullify the Rams' pass rush like Minnesota did last week. That puts the onus on Quinn to get home and make plays when the rare chance to do so arises.
EARTH CITY, Mo. -- They were selected three spots apart in the 2011 NFL draft. In the time since, Houston Texans defensive end J.J. Watt and St. Louis Rams defensive end Robert Quinn have developed into two of the league's most dominant defensive players, regardless of position.

Watt, who checked in at No. 1 amongst defenders in our most recent #NFLRank project, was rewarded for his outstanding body of work early Tuesday morning. ESPN's Chris Mortensen reported Watt agreed to a six-year, $100 million contract extension with the Texans. Mortensen reports the deal includes $51.8 million guaranteed, the most for a defensive player in the history of the NFL.

Soon after that news broke, Quinn offered his congratulations to his fellow 2011 draftee via Twitter.

It's left unsaid here but Quinn also might as well have tossed in a hashtag with the words "thank you" after it. That's because with Watt now officially setting the bar in uncharted territory for a defensive player, Quinn has a pretty good idea of what his next contract is going to look like. Luxurious, indeed.

Clearly, Watt's value to the Texans makes him a player they know they can't replace. He's a dominant run-stuffer and an incredibly productive pass-rusher while playing a position where it's hard to get sacks.

The Rams should view Quinn the same way after his breakthrough 2013 season. In posting 19 sacks and seven forced fumbles, Quinn proved beyond a doubt that he's the Rams' best and most valuable player. Beyond his pass-rush production, Quinn also made great strides as a run defender and, for whatever it's worth, earned record-high grades for a 4-3 defensive end from Pro Football Focus.

The scary thing about Quinn is that he's only 24 years old and just scratching the surface of what he can do in the NFL. Working with defensive line coach Mike Waufle, one of the best in the league at his craft, there's almost no ceiling to what Quinn could become.

The Rams have Quinn under control for the next two years at the reasonable cap charge of a combined $9,971,381, which includes the bargain rate of just over $3 million this season. In theory, they could wait it out and use the franchise tag if they wanted but it seems unlikely they'd go that route since there's no reason to potentially anger the easy going Quinn.

Instead, my expectation is the Rams will wait until after this season to begin talks on extending Quinn. After the year, the Rams will free plenty of cap space (a number which could be even bigger if they part ways with quarterback Sam Bradford) and Quinn will have a chance to add another dominant year to his overall body of work.

There's little doubt the Rams will work to ensure Quinn remains a franchise fixture well into the future. Now that the bar has been set, it's not really a matter of if but when.

#NFLRank: No. 6 Robert Quinn

August, 29, 2014
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EARTH CITY, Mo. -- The annual #NFLRank project got underway last week as a panel of 85 NFL analysts across ESPN's many platforms went through the process of ranking the Top 100 players in the league on each side of the ball.

 Though Thursday, three St. Louis Rams -- linebacker James Laurinaitis (No. 93 defense), left tackle Jake Long (No. 63 offense) and defensive end Chris Long (No. 37 defense) -- had cracked the list. On Friday's final day, the list revealed the highest-ranked Ram, defensive end Robert Quinn.

Quinn made the biggest jump of any player in this year's rankings, moving from unranked last year to No. 6 on defense this year.

Defense, No. 6, Robert Quinn

Stats & Info: Quinn led the NFC with 19 sacks last season, the most by a Ram since sacks became official in 1982. Quinn's seven forced fumbles also led the NFC last season.

My take: Although Quinn made quite a leap in this year's rankings and being called the sixth best defensive player in the league is no slight, I can't help but feel like Quinn is too low on this list. I suppose you could make the argument that he needs a little more of a body of work before he can crack the top five, but these rankings are based on the here and now. I have the privilege of seeing Quinn every day so maybe that clouds my view, but I doubt there's a defensive player in the league that has the combination of production and upside that Quinn showed coming out of last season. I personally would have Quinn only behind Houston's J.J. Watt, who is at No. 1 on the list, and Seattle safety Earl Thomas, who is No. 3. I have little doubt that Quinn's trajectory will only continue to point him upwards as these rankings continue. What's scary for the rest of the NFL is he's only 24 and still scratching the surface of what he can do.

Camp Confidential: St. Louis Rams

August, 14, 2014
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EARTH CITY, Mo. -- As one of the few training camps in the league at which music doesn't regularly blare through temporary speaker setups, the soundtrack to the St. Louis Rams 2014 camp is limited to the sounds of pads cracking and the ensuing trash talk.

It's a drastic departure from last year's camp, when the Rams attempted to turn their offense into a spread-based passing attack flinging the ball all over the field.

That experiment failed miserably but also cleared the path for the Rams to forge their current identity, which is regularly on display on the Rams Park practice fields.

At an early August practice, the sight of running back Zac Stacy and tight end Cory Harkey consistently dropping their pads and creating collisions with defenders set a physical tone that manifested into a fight between cornerback Lamarcus Joyner and receiver Austin Pettis.

As residents of the NFL's toughest and most physical division, the NFC West, the Rams permanently adopted the approach they used in the season's final 12 games. Which is to say, they want an offense based on a power-rushing attack and an aggressive defense.

If that plan sounds similar to what Seattle and San Francisco do, it's because it is. If you can't beat 'em, join 'em.

"Obviously, that's the way we're built," offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer said. "We've always been built that way. That's what we're going to be based on -- play great defense, run the football. Our play-action game comes off of that."

THREE REASONS FOR OPTIMISM

1. Defensively, the Rams have the pieces in place to be one of the league's elite groups in 2014. Coordinator Gregg Williams gives Fisher's Rams the chance to move from a middling group to a top-10 or even top-five unit in the NFL. Even without Williams' aggressive guidance, the Rams have combined for more sacks than any team in the league over the past two seasons. With the additions of defensive tackles Aaron Donald and Alex Carrington, the defensive line is the deepest and best in the league. Defensive end Robert Quinn is already one of the best pass-rushers in the league and should get better. That group should be good enough to wreck game plans on a weekly basis.

[+] EnlargeSam Bradford
Jeff Roberson/AP PhotoSam Bradford is on track to be fully recovered from injury when the regular season begins, and he has an offensive line with the potential to be among the league's best.
2. The aforementioned shift to a run-centric offense should be buoyed by the offseason addition of No. 2 overall pick Greg Robinson and running back Tre Mason, as well as the retention of guard Rodger Saffold. With a line built to run the ball and an offense that now knows what it should be, the run game should be better and more consistent.

3. The advancements in modern medicine should benefit the Rams, as quarterback Sam Bradford and left tackle Jake Long are on track to be ready when the season begins. Both are coming off major knee surgery, but you'd hardly know it from watching them move around on the practice field. Bradford is facing a huge season and knows this is the time to finally prove he's the long-term answer at quarterback. Long played at a Pro Bowl level for most of the past season, especially in the run game, and is critical to ensuring that Bradford stays healthy. Having both back this early would have been a big surprise in the past but is a welcome sight in St. Louis.

THREE REASONS FOR PESSIMISM

1. For the second straight season, the Rams' offensive line has the potential to be among the best in the league. But the dark injury cloud hovering over that projection remains. Long, center Scott Wells and Saffold are each either coming off an injury, have a lengthy injury history or both. Although line coach Paul Boudreau has a gift for making it work with whoever is playing, he has a group of question marks behind the starters. Guard Davin Joseph is the only backup on the line with substantial experience.

2. Among the many positions in which the Rams are young, perhaps none are of greater concern than the secondary. Cornerback Janoris Jenkins is headed into his third season and third as a starter, which makes him the elder statesmen of the group. Cornerback Trumaine Johnson and safeties Rodney McLeod and T.J. McDonald have experience, but they've also been spotty in terms of performance. The Rams are banking on the pass rush to help the secondary, but it's unrealistic to think the defensive backs won't have to stand on their own in key moments.

3. Attempting to project what any team will do in a season based on the previous year's result is a fool's errand, but it's hard to ignore the on-paper strength of the Rams' schedule, particularly in the NFC West. Like last year, it's possible the Rams will be better than the past season but left with nothing to show for it in terms of record or postseason appearances.

OBSERVATION DECK
    [+] EnlargeSam
    Michael B. Thomas/Getty ImagesThe media circus expected to engulf Rams rookie Michael Sam at training camp has not materialized.

  • All that talk about defensive end Michael Sam being a distraction for this team has been just that: talk. Sam has earned nothing but positive reviews from his teammates and coaches for his work ethic and desire to improve. He still faces a battle to make the roster, but aside from a couple days of increased media attention, the circus many expected has never materialized.
  • Once again, the Rams are almost wholly unproven at wide receiver, but they believe they are ready to change that this year. Kenny Britt has been a pleasant surprise, both in performance and leadership, and has had a particularly positive effect on Brian Quick. Breakout is a relative term with this group, given that the Rams won't be airing it out like other teams, but big plays will be needed to complement the run game.
  • The Rams will miss young receiver Stedman Bailey as he serves a four-game suspension to start the season. He's been the most consistent wideout in camp and looks poised for a much bigger role upon his return.
  • Donald might not start, but he is going to play a lot. He has wowed coaches and teammates with his advanced technical skills and maturity. Some in the organization believe he could become Defensive Rookie of the Year.
  • Looking for an undrafted rookie or two who could win roster spots? Look no further than tight end Alex Bayer and defensive lineman Ethan Westbrooks. Both flashed potential in the spring, and it has carried over into training camp and the preseason.
  • Although Stacy and Mason garner most of the attention at running back, Benny Cunningham should not be overlooked. The Rams like him a lot, and he returned to St. Louis bigger, stronger and faster. He's another year removed from a serious knee injury and could play a more integral role in his second season.
EARTH CITY, Mo. -- On Wednesday afternoon, ESPN Insider Mark Dominik put together the best team money can buy using every roster and every cap number for players around the league.

In this sort of fantasy football, Dominik only had to work within the constraints of this year's salary cap and did not limit himself to having a representative from every team. For those of you with ESPN Insider, here's the team he put together.

Quinn
As for the team, without giving away the entire roster, the St. Louis Rams had one representative in the form of defensive end Robert Quinn. Considering his talent, potential and relatively light price tag, Quinn is a no-brainer for the team. Dominik has Quinn starting opposite Houston's J.J. Watt. What a nightmare that would be for an offense.

In looking at the rest of the roster, there was only one spot that jumped out to me as one where you could and should have gone with a Ram. That's punter. Dominik chose talented Jacksonville's Bryan Anger. While he's a fine choice, but it's hard to justify taking him over the Rams' John Hekker. Hekker was first-team All Pro and set a league record for net punting in 2013.

Making Hekker even more appealing is that he's actually scheduled to count $573,334 against this year's cap, which is almost $200,000 less than Anger. Not that it's a big deal, but it serves as an easy swap that could have helped with money elsewhere.

I.C.Y.M.I.

A roundup of Wednesday's Rams stories appearing on ESPN.com. ... In the Ram-blings, we began the day by hearing from Quinn, who appeared on ESPN Radio earlier this week. ... In this week's Buzz video, I discussed the offensive line's movement toward having its five starters in place in the near future. ... Next, we took a look at how Hekker can improve in 2014. ... Then we delved into quarterback Sam Bradford's enthusiasm to get back into game action. ... Finally, we closed with a quick camp report from the team's special teams only practice Wednesday afternoon.

Elsewhere:

At stltoday.com, Jim Thomas looks at the effect receiver Kenny Britt has had on the Rams receivers.

Jeff Gordon offers a look at the increased efforts to get a stadium in Los Angeles.

Joe Lyons recaps the early performance of cornerback E.J. Gaines.

101sports.com has Bradford's interview heading into the second preseason game.

Merril Hoge joined 101sports.com and talked about the impact of defensive tackle Aaron Donald.

Rams rewind: Preseason opener

August, 10, 2014
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EARTH CITY, Mo. -- The St. Louis Rams' preseason opener against the New Orleans Saints on Friday night offered plenty of bizarre moments, including a wild finish that yielded a 26-24 Saints victory.

Some leftover thoughts on the game after watching it again (unfortunately on the TV broadcast since the All-22 is not yet available):
  • Defensive end Robert Quinn only played a handful of snaps, with the Rams using him exclusively on obvious third-down passing situations and on one fourth down when New Orleans went for it. He was his usual, disruptive self but was unable to get home as the Saints clearly made it a point of getting the ball out quick.
  • Rookie offensive lineman Greg Robinson split his time between left guard and left tackle, starting the game on the inside. It appeared Robinson was responsible for allowing a sack early in the game when he kicked out on a block when he was supposed to block down to the inside. Coach Jeff Fisher confirmed as much Saturday. Fisher called it a communication issue, something that Robinson probably won't struggle with as much when veterans Jake Long and Scott Wells return to his flanks. But aside from that, Robinson seemed to handle himself just fine. Even kicking outside to tackle, Robinson looked comfortable protecting the edge. Granted, it came against the third team defense but it was still a positive step for the young lineman.
  • Fellow first-round pick Aaron Donald also continued to show why he's earned rave reviews in camp. He was his usual quick self off the snap and spent plenty of time in the Saints' backfield. The Rams want to be an aggressive, up the field unit but one thing worth watching is whether the Rams will have to get him to dial back his push a little in some running situations. It's strange to say because Donald is at his best pushing up the field but there were a couple of times where he seemed to take himself out of the play because he was in the backfield so quickly and the Saints sent an extra blocker over to keep him from blowing up the play. It may not matter in the real games, though, because the Rams have the benefit of picking and choosing their spots with Donald behind Kendall Langford and Michael Brockers.
  • As suspected at first blush, cornerback E.J. Gaines did have a strong performance. He started and played a lot and spent most of the evening around the ball. His instincts to read the play and react allow him to get to the ball fast. He's putting himself in a good position to win a roster spot.
  • Two of the team's prized undrafted rookies are also beginning to make their cases. Tight end Alex Bayer has been making plays since the spring but looked faster and more athletic when he was able to cut it loose in a game. He was solid as a blocker, too. Ethan Westbrooks, who could push for a ninth defensive line roster spot, also was active. He chased ball carriers down the field and made three tackles but also flashed his pass-rushing potential. Westbrooks doesn't play special teams like Michael Sam does but he has the versatility to play inside and out, which could help his cause.
  • Rookie running back Tre Mason got 15 carries -- more than the Rams would have liked -- and he had some good moments. There were a couple of runs where Mason looked like he made the wrong read and bounced it outside costing himself yards, but he seemed to settle in as the game wore on. Perhaps the most impressive play of his night was a blitz pickup in the second half when he stood up a pass-rusher as if he'd been doing it for years. That's one way to fast track himself onto the field more as a rookie.
  • It was clear the Rams had issues with tackling. So did the Saints. We've covered that ground already. But it was particularly noticeable with linebacker Ray-Ray Armstrong. Each time the Rams missed a tackle it led to a big gain. They can scheme ways to better defend the run, and they will when the season starts, but Armstrong doesn't look ready to be a full-time linebacker just yet. Some are wondering about an expanded role for him in the defense, and that could still happen, but don't expect it to be a starting down-to-down scenario. The Rams defense, in general, was missing many key components, but middle linebacker James Laurinaitis' absence was the most glaring.
  • It should be no surprise that defensive back Lamarcus Joyner made a positive, physical first impression. He proved a solid open-field tackler and looks to have the makings of an outstanding gunner on punt teams. On the first punt of the night, Joyner worked past two blockers and pinned the returner to the other side of the field where he was promptly forced out of bounds.
  • There's still plenty to sort out among the backups on the offensive line. Mike Person, Davin Joseph and Tim Barnes look poised to be the top backups beyond the starting five after getting the first opportunity against the Saints.

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