METAIRIE, La. – The New Orleans Saints have featured one of the best young pass-rushing tandems in the NFL this year in Cameron Jordan and Junior Galette. On Sunday they’ll face another dynamic duo – the St. Louis Rams’ Robert Quinn and Chris Long.
Quinn and Long have combined for 19.5 sacks this year – 13 of them from Quinn, which ranks second in the NFL.
Quinn is a third-year pro who was drafted along with Jordan in that outstanding defensive draft class of 2011. But the way players describe the Rams duo, Quinn is more like Galette – a speed rusher with an unpredictable arsenal of moves. And Long is more like Jordan – a relentless, physical power rusher.
Quinn (6-foot-4, 264 pounds) also has 10 quarterback hits and 42 hurries, according to Pro Football Focus. That gives him PFF's second-highest pass-rush grade in the league (behind Houston’s J.J. Watt and ahead of Jordan).
Long, a sixth-year pro, has 6.5 sacks this year and a total of 33 over the previous three years – including a three-sack game against the Saints in 2011. The 6-3, 268-pounder has six QB hits and 32 hurries, according to Pro Football Focus.
Here’s what the Saints are saying about Quinn and Long this week:
Coach Sean Payton: “They’re different types of players and yet they are both very productive guys when it comes to rushing the passer and they are both equally as productive in the run game. [Quinn] is extremely powerful with very good edge speed. There is about two or three rush moves that he gives you that become real problematic. When the both of them get going, that combination is as good as we have seen. You just watch it on tape, teams that get into predictable passing situations and the challenges that they present is very difficult. [Quinn’s] speed and power, he is very athletic and he can really bend a corner and lay low. Both of those guys are a handful. …
“[Long] plays with a great motor. He’s very talented. He’s explosive. The snap that you get on play No. 4, you’re going to get that same energy, that same ability to get off on the snap count on play No. 34. He goes extremely hard. He’s very smart. He plays with very good leverage. You see him get on the edge of tackles. You see him rush with power. You see him rush with speed. He presents a lot of challenges.”
RT Zach Strief: “I think both of them have excellent get-offs, especially at home. They’re really good at anticipating the snap count and getting off the ball. I think Robert Quinn shows really high-end athleticism. He bends very well. He’s a little unorthodox. He’s so athletic he can make moves and cuts off the opposite foot than you would normally think. … What makes him so difficult is he’s unpredictable. You don’t have that instinct with him because he does things most guys don’t do. …
“I think Chris Long is one of the hardest-playing defensive ends you’ll see in the NFL. Really plays with a lot of effort. Powerful guy, plays with his hands well. Really physical player, and yet shows a good burst to threaten you on the edge, to make you feel like you’ve got to get back.”
RG Jahri Evans: “They’re good, obviously. I think Quinn is better this year than he was last year. He’s a little bit more seasoned. He’s a good pass-rusher. Long is good, too. They just play left and right, so Quinn’s over the left tackle. They get up the field. Long is powerful. Quinn is a lot more speed, and the speed sets up the power for him. But I like our matchups. I think our tackles are good. Zach’s good against power, and Charles [Brown] is very athletic, so I think we’ll be fine.”
LT Charles Brown: “In that game [when Long had three sacks in 2011], he was timing up my punch pretty well. So when I would throw it, he would swipe it and get the edge and he got me on two good rushes. … I know to change it up now. He definitely had more experience than me at that point. He was a great player and he was a better player that day.”
QB Drew Brees: “Their whole defensive front, including their defensive ends, Long and Quinn, have done a great job all year long of getting pressure on the quarterback. They are a great tandem, one of the best in the league.”
Strief: “I see Chris being somewhat similar to Cam. Not super similar body-wise, but in terms of anticipating snap count, getting off tackles, moving people physically. … It’s almost hard to compare Junior or Robert Quinn to anybody, because they’re both unorthodox guys. So if you were to say there’s a similarity, it’s that there’s not many people like either of them.”