Ravens Ready to Step Up, Part 2

Lombardi's Way Ravens Ready to Step Up, Part 2

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In Part 1 of “Ravens Ready to Step Up” I touched down on three offensive players whose careers should ascend in 2021. Today, the focus will be on three players near and dear to the heart of defensive coordinator Wink Martindale.

Patrick Queen

From the day the Ravens made Patrick Queen the 28th overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft, Martindale salivated over the possibilities of his newest defender. Queen is an explosive player with rare speed at the position and despite his youth, possesses keen skills in coverage. As an instinctive blitzer he has the ability to wreck plays and create havoc.

However, during his rookie season Queen only flashed. Consistency wasn’t an adjective applied to the former LSU Tiger. He was often caught in the wash and struggled to disengage from blockers. In space, he oftentimes looked lost and depended on his athleticism to cover up his inadequate recognition skills. Such failures created doubt in his mind. His playbook miscues forced him to think too much and in doing so, neutralized his uncommon physical gifts.

But with a year under his belt, familiarity with Martindale’s schematics, the addition of inside linebackers coach Rob Ryan and an opportunity to prepare his body for the grind of an NFL season, more impact plays like the one above from the Ravens Wild Card win in Nashville, are expected.

Recently Queen lamented upon his rookie growing pains.

“It’s way different, because coming out of college, you’ve got spring, so you always get to practice and stuff. And then coming into last year, I didn’t get ‘spring time,’ couldn’t train really anywhere, so I came into the season out of shape. This year, this is a whole lot better. I get to train now; I get to see my teammates early and get the communication down and stuff. It’s only up from here, so it’s a big key to be here right now.”

[Related Article: Queen’s Gambit]

Somewhere, Wink is smiling.

Justin Madubuike

During training camp in 2020, veterans Calais Campbell, Brandon Williams and Derek Wolfe took notice of Madubuike. The willingness to learn was just as evident as his natural skills. And like Queen, the Dallas native can unleash his talents and build upon his takeaways from last season.

“Oh, the kid can play. He’s going to be a good football player, man,” Wolfe exclaimed. “He’s a great rookie. He’s strong, he’s tough, physical. He wants to be good. He listens, he writes down everything. That’s all you can ask for. He’s always asking questions, always trying to get better. I think that kid is going to be a really good football player.”

The former Texas A&M Aggie has an explosive first step, powerful hands and an ability to slip through small crevices provided by opposing offensive fronts. The result – he’s a natural disrupter. In 2020 Madubuike fought through an early season soft tissue injury to his leg, setting him back to start the campaign. He didn’t see any game action until Week 5 but as his leg healed and as he made a bigger impact, Justin’s snap count increased. Here’s a deep dive from RSR’s James Ogden who provides a ton of visual evidence as to why Ravens fans should get excited about another member of the 2020 draft class.

Tyus Bowser

There’s no denying Bowser’s physical gifts. He possesses superior athleticism. He’s a quick twitched athlete whose skillset plays well in Martindale’s defense. He’s already proven to be an asset in coverage with purposeful drops into his zone after bluffing an edge rush and he has good body lean coming off the edge. He just seems to have struggled impact games on Sundays in a way that belies his talents.

Part of the problem may have been his assignments which prevented him from ringing the sack bell. When Yannick Ngakoue came on the scene last season it limited Tyus’ pass rushing opportunities. In 2019 he had 5 sacks during 399 snaps (1.3% sack rate/snap). Comparatively speaking, Matt Judon had 9 ½ sacks in 2019 on 807 snaps (1.2% sack rate/snap) Now 26, I look for Bowser to ascend as a quarterback nemesis in a manner similar to former Ravens Paul Kruger and Za’Darius Smith when they were 26 and posted sack totals of 9 and 8 ½ respectively.

Opponents will be seeing “54” show up on tape much more in 2021.

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About Tony Lombardi

Tony is the founder and His work has been featured on various sports websites and he hosts The Russell Street Report and Armchair Quarterback both seen and heard on Fanimal Radio. Among his favorite things in life are his wife, kids, family, friends, The Beatles, Breaking Bad, Gladiator, The Godfather, Guinness, orange crushes, meatballs and Key West, not necessarily in that order. Follow Tony on Twitter @RSRLombardi. More from Tony Lombardi

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