The Ravens win over the Colts was one for the ages. It was probably a game that a measurable portion of the fan base didn’t even see to the end, having given up on the developing blowout with the team trailing 22-3 deep into the third quarter. Nevertheless it’s a game that may never be forgotten given the heroics of Lamar Jackson, Marquise Brown, Mark Andrews and Calais Campbell. That said, one person who would probably like to forget the game is Patrick Queen.
The second-year linebacker and 2020 first-round pick was initially thought to be an excellent fit for Wink Martindale’s style of defense. Queen brings uncommon speed to the position of inside linebacker and that trait, at least on paper, seemed like a match made in football heaven for the Ravens. Unfortunately, in reality, it has been a living hell for the team and their fans.
The former LSU Tiger struggles massively to shed oncoming blockers and far too often when a play is over, he’s 10 or more yards downfield, seemingly doing the cha-cha with a guard who couldn’t wait to meet his acquaintance. At other times, Queen seems to guess which gap a running play is intended for and that pre-snap crap shoot too often comes up snake eyes. In coverage he’s a liability and is targeted by opposing offensive coordinators looking to get him in man coverage or to exploit his sub-standard recognition skills when dropping into a zone. And his tackling…ugh!
Queen has shown promise as a blitzer given his explosiveness in short spaces but lately, it seems he tips his hand too early allowing blocking schemes to adjust. The end result is him simply standing around the line of scrimmage, essentially eliminating himself from the competition of the play.
Martindale recruited and hired his buddy Rob Ryan to help with the team’s inside backers but so far, there’s little evidence that he’s done anything to develop the raw talents of Queen or 2020 draft classmate Malik Harrison. 2021 was supposed to be the year that we’d see progression from Queen. The lack of OTA’s in 2020 were said to have slowed Queen’s development which in turn made for a less productive training camp.
But this season, we all heard about how Queen would benefit from OTA’s and the succeeding training camp. Familiarity in the system was thought to be a boon to his productivity. And by his own admission, Queen wasn’t in ideal shape in 2020. With an offseason conditioning program under his belt coupled with all the above, 2021 was supposed to be different. Instead, nothing has changed and the argument could be made that Queen’s 2021 is worse than his rookie campaign. If you put stock in Pro Football Focus’ grades, Queen grades out as the 84th-ranked linebacker – dead last in the National Football League.
Queen is still young, having turned 22 on August 13. His physical tools suggest that he should be playing much better and perhaps with experience he will. But until he reaches a point where he ignites his innate skill set, the Ravens will suffer. Who knew how costly the loss of L.J. Fort would end up being? Reinforcements from free agents now on the street are limited as are the team’s cap resources which now hover at $2.3M.
The NFL has always been about which team can exploit an opponent’s weaknesses more than your own weaknesses are exploited. Maybe the only thing the Ravens can do is wait out Queen and hope that Lamar and the offense can jump out to leads that force teams into a one-dimensional brand of offense. Otherwise, what we saw on Monday Night from Queen will be a regular stain on the performance of Martindale’s defense for the balance of the 2021 season.