Entering Year 3 with the Ravens, Patrick Queen plans on taking his game to another level.
Queen has been a starting inside linebacker since Day 1 and led the Ravens in tackles last year with 98, including 10 tackles for loss. However, after playing 80% percent of the defensive snaps as a rookie, Queen played 76% of the defensive snaps last season.
That irked Queen, who loves football and hates coming off the field. One of his primary goals for 2022 is to secure his role as an every-down linebacker in new Defensive Coordinator Mike Macdonald's system, a playmaker who's simply too valuable to take off the field in any situation.
"That is very important to me, especially seeing last year how I didn't get on the field that much," Queen said. "This offseason, I just focused on being in shape this year and just coming back being stronger, and like I said being more vocal and understanding stuff now. I'm comfortable now, everything is in a rhythm, so now that I can be in those positions, I can stay on the field all the time now."
Year 3 has been a pivotal turning point for Queen at other levels of football. In Year 3 of high school, he blossomed into a top college prospect who jumped onto LSU's radar. In Year 3 of college football, Queen went from being a part-time starter to a defensive star on an LSU team that won the national championship.
Now it's Year 3 with the Ravens and Queen is showing indications that he's ready to take another major leap. Queen has attacked this offseason like none other, taking just two weeks off after the season before starting a rigorous offseason training program. He gave up fried foods for two months, a major sacrifice for the Louisiana native.
His hard work is paying off during OTA's, where Queen has been flashing to the football with consistency. On Wednesday, he made an impressive break on the ball to deflect a pass thrown by Tyler Huntley, and while the pads haven't come on yet, the light bulb is on for Queen. When the Ravens made him a first-round pick (28th overall) in 2022, they believed he had star potential and they still do.
"God touched 'PQ' [with] natural ability, and he works hard at it," Inside Linebackers Coach Zach Orr said. "I honestly believe that [if] he continues to get better, continues to grow, continues to work on the little details, he can be one of the best linebackers in the National Football League."
The next step for Queen is to become more consistent as a tackler and in pass coverage. His play took a step forward last season when he moved from SAM linebacker to WILL linebacker and Josh Bynes moves into the starting lineup. Queen seemed to play more instinctively at WILL, and he benefitted from playing next to a cerebral vet like Bynes, who re-signed during the offseason.
As a former second-team All-Pro linebacker who can relate to the strides that Queen wants to make, Orr loves what he's seeing at OTAs.
"Just as any player, he can continue to get better in the run game, pass game, as a blitzer, because he's still young," Orr said. "But I'm really excited about 'PQ,' and I think you just see the dedication that he has. It's good when you combine talent [and] commitment from a player. I think he's showing everything he needs to do to be a three-down linebacker, and now, it's just [him continuing] to sharpen those tools in every aspect."
Queen's sideline-to-sideline speed makes him a factor in the running game, and he's always been an effective blitzer with five career sacks and 13 quarterback hits. Now he's playing with more confidence, regardless of the situation.
"I think just being more comfortable," Queen said. "Being vocal, and actually just communicating and understanding stuff now. Not even being frightened by, 'This formation or that formation.' Or, 'I've got this responsibility, or I've got that responsibility.' Just being able to be more vocal, more open and more open-minded to stuff, and just being able to play football and being able to relax."
Queen is looking forward to mandatory minicamp and training camp, seeking to build on the foundation he has started. He has been hard on himself in the past, because he cares so much about his performance and winning. It's been hard for Queen to be patient, but he thinks the 2022 season will bring the results he's been looking for.
"I wanted to do it quick – but I understand things take time," Queen said. "Somebody actually asked me, is 'What's the one thing that you would tell your high school self now?' And I would be like, 'Patience is the biggest thing.'
"Two years down, one more year to look forward to for big things. It's Year 3 now, so you know what time it is."