ST. LOUIS - Robert Quinn set a St. Louis Rams record and led the NFC with 19 sacks last season.
Robert Quinn at a glance
Position: Defensive end
High school: Fort Dorchester
College: North Carolina
NFL: St. Louis Rams
Career statistics (3 seasons)
Tackles - 109
Sacks - 34½
Forced fumbles - 8
fumbles recovered - 2
The challenge this season is to do even better, without changing a thing.
"I stuck to my same routine. If it's not broken, don't fix it, right?" said Quinn, who played at Fort Dorchester High School. "Of course, I want to push myself harder to be a better player."
The defensive end was second overall in the NFL, a half-sack behind the Colts' Robert Mathis, and also was second in the league with seven forced fumbles. He has a number in mind for 2014, but is keeping it private.
"I can't do that," Quinn told reporters, "because you're going to put too much pressure on me."
Of course, he can't deny thinking about the NFL record of 22½ sacks by the Giants' Michael Strahan in 2001.
"Can I plead the fifth?" Quinn said. "I'm sure any D-lineman or anybody going for sacks wants to take down that record, but you have to go one sack at a time.
"I've got a lot of work to do to better myself, and I think as a defense we've got a lot of work to do."
The Rams view the 6-4, 265-pound Quinn as still ascending. Though he's entering his fourth season, he's only 24 after leaving North Carolina early.
Plus, this season he'll have Gregg Williams pushing for more, both on the pass rush and defending the run. Williams is a proven commodity as a defensive coordinator and Quinn has been impressed with the defensive coordinator's wealth of knowledge on both sides of the ball and knack for exploiting the opponent's weakness and protecting his own team's deficiencies.
"His philosophy is to defend every blade of grass," Quinn said. "That's how detailed he wants to be about everything, and I think guys are definitely stepping up to the challenge."
The Rams aspire to top-10 status on defense with a pass rush that was among the leaders with 53 sacks, and has added first-round pick Aaron Donald, a tackle who can pressure the quarterback.
They're getting respect nationally, too.
End Chris Long had 8½ sacks, tackle Michael Brockers had 5½, backup end William Hayes had five and middle linebacker James Laurinaitis had 3½.
Michael Sam, the first openly gay player drafted in the NFL, could figure in the mix, too. Sam showed a nice outside rush move in drills against other fellow backups.
"He's fitting in really well," Long said. "Like any other rookie he's unpolished, but he's eager to learn."
So, if opponents double-team Quinn, problems are likely to crop up elsewhere.
"We've got a whole bunch of great guys that can put up numbers on any given day," Quinn said. "It's going to be hard just to focus on one guy, so if teams decide to focus on me you can name any guy on our defense, really."
Last season, Quinn had a trio of three-sack games. One of the highlights was scrambling on all fours to get to Saints quarterback Drew Brees, stripping the quarterback, recovering the fumble and racing to the end zone for his first career touchdown.
"Robert Quinn is a super-hero," Long said.
He's getting that treatment from the team's promotions department, which concocted a giveaway figure of Quinn bending at the hips and waving his arms during a sack dance named "The Bernie," which aims to mimic movements made by the cadaver in the film, "Weekend at Bernie's."
"It's definitely funny to put on my mantel - once I get one," Quinn said. "Hopefully this year I just keep it rolling so I don't disappoint them."
St. Louis Rams defensive end Robert Quinn (94) celebrates after sacking Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson (3) last season in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)×