New Dolphins DE Robert Quinn bending minds with flexibility

Robert Quinn celebrates a sack for the L.A. Rams. (Wally Skalij/Los Angeles Times/TNS)

DAVIE — Robert Quinn is 6-foot-4, 250 pounds and he’s strong and he’s fast and yet his most valuable asset is one coaches and players at Miami Dolphins camp have been having a hard time wrapping their minds around.

How Quinn bends.

Defensive ends like Quinn are taught to fire off the ball as quickly as they can, aim toward an outside edge and then at precisely the right moment, stick a foot in the ground and pivot toward the helpless quarterback, crushing and rendering him lifeless.

You can’t just be fast. You can’t just be strong. You have to know how to contort your body. And contort Quinn does.

“He’s a unique athlete,” Dolphins defensive coordinator Matt Burke said. “He bends probably as good as anybody I’ve ever been around. It’s weird to watch sometimes, to be honest with you. He comes off the corner and sometimes you think he’s actually rushing too high and gets past the quarterback, then he just turns his foot and plants it and bends it. His knee is about two feet off the ground and he can really hug it.  It’s pretty fun.”

In a recent news conference, Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill brought it up, without even being asked.

“It’s incredible how he bends the corner and his hips are two feet off the ground, but he’s running full speed around the corner,” Tannehill said.

Recent first round draft choice Charles Harris, a defensive end, seemed to speak with reverence, and a tinge of jealousy, about how Quinn is able to control and direct his body.

“Rob, seeing him practice and seeing him going through cornering drills and stuff, it’s just like ‘Dang, how do you do it?’” Harris said. “It’s also motivating. For me, I look at it as I had the most bend on the team. Seeing him going through all of that is like, I’ve got to get my stuff together.”

Quinn dominated the NFL from 2012-2014, with 10.5, 19 and 10.5 sacks. But battling injuries, he took a step back the following two seasons and then recorded 8.5 last year, but never fully grew comfortable with a transition to linebacker.

Quinn is back at defensive end in Miami, and being asked to do one thing really well.

“Get on your aiming point, key the ball and go as fast as you can go as hard as you can go,” defensive line coach Kris Kocurek said.

Miami players are openly raving about how they’re going to attack more this season. Last season, there was so much emphasis on gap integrity and slowing the opposing run with proper reads.

The Dolphins feel to be their best on defense, they’ll need to unleash Quinn, Cam Wake, Harris and Andre Branch.

There hasn’t been any tackling at Dolphins practices yet, of course. But it’s hard to miss Quinn’s speed, athleticism and ridiculous bendability. Is it any wonder he’s been dubbed “Gumby” in the past?

“Flexibility,” Dolphins defensive tackle Vincent Taylor said. He’s very flexible. Just the way I see him bend the corner and how low he gets, and just getting around all of those tackles, he’s a very special player. He’s very flexible.”

Burke, who has seen a lot of special pass rushers in his NFL career, has actually been taken aback by watching Quinn practice.

“He’s another guy that doesn’t really say much,” Burke said. “He just kind of comes out to work. He’s got a smile on his face. But just from an athletic standpoint, to me, he has a rare bend ability. That’s his trait and it’s almost disarming to watch at times, the way he can corner.”

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