On paper, the Chicago Bears made their defense better with a big splash in free agency.
They brought in defensive end Robert Quinn on a five-year deal for $70 million and added a daunting complementary piece on their defensive line to pair with linebacker Khalil Mack.
Ahead of Sunday’s season opener against the Lions at Ford Field, Quinn is listed as doubtful because of an ankle injury and the injury report indicates that Quinn didn’t practice all week. According to reports, he has done only a few team drills in a scrimmage.
That casts significant doubt on whether he’ll be able to make his Bears debut, after notching 11½ sacks and 34 tackles last season with the Cowboys.
“I think that Robert right now is at a point where we know, number one, what he did last year — that’s why he’s here. That’s all we see right now in regards to him and that’s what we know,” Bears coach Matt Nagy said Friday. “Expect the unexpected — you never know, right?”
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If Quinn is unable to play, the Bears could look to Barkevious Mingo to pick up some of the reps. Mingo was a reserve with the Texans last season and didn’t have a sack, with just six tackles in 16 games.
For Nagy, not having Quinn ready for the opener and through a summer of not getting to 100% isn’t quite what anyone envisioned.
“I think frustration is probably a good word,” Nagy said. “He’s pretty laid-back but he’s old school too. He’s really old school in his mentality of how he approaches things. It’s where we’re at … we’ll see. He’s doubtful, but again, things could change so you don’t know where things are at, but we’ll see.”
Quinn, 30, was a first-round pick (14th overall) by the Rams in 2011. He’s a two-time Pro Bowl selection, including 2013, when he had career highs of 19 sacks and 57 tackles.
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The Bears have downplayed Quinn’s injury issues leading up to the season and what was termed a “personal issue” by the team. Neither Nagy nor general manager Ryan Pace has given detail about the nature of Quinn’s injury.
“The best thing he does is get after the quarterback and rush the passer, so it’s not like there’s a ton of X’s and O’s necessarily with some of that — just get off the ball and get the corner,” Pace said recently. “But we feel good about where he is from knowing our defense even if he has had a little bit of a short training camp.”
Without the benefit of preseason games to gauge how the Lions are playing — especially with new personnel and a new defensive coordinator — Nagy isn’t worried about the unknowns in facing the Lions in the opener.
Matthew Stafford missed the second half of last season because of back injuries and missed both losses against the Bears.
In many ways, the Lions will look like a different team than the Bears faced in 2019.
“Number one, I have so much respect for Matthew Stafford; he knows how to play the quarterback position and he can do so many different things with his knowledge of the game and where defenses are,” Nagy said. “He’s seen a bunch of different defenses, but then probably more importantly is he’s deadly accurate. He can make throws that other quarterbacks can’t make.
“He’s just a competitor man and you respect that.”
It’s some help that the opener is against a division foe, in that both teams have an idea of what to expect from the schemes, though there might be some slight differences. The Lions have had significant turnover on defense and the Bears have some additions as well.
That’s better than facing an AFC team that they’re not as familiar with.
“It’s the personnel, that’s what it is. It’s not so much this game as most teams will do what they do but then there’s some wrinkles here or there,” Nagy said. “I think being a division opponent and seeing them twice a year, we feel pretty good with the personnel. They probably feel the same way about us.”.