Patrick Queen made it clear during training camp that he wanted to be an every-down linebacker.
So far, he's fulfilling that mission. After the best summer of his career, Queen had one of the best games in Week 1, playing all 84 defensive snaps with eight tackles, three quarterback hits and ½ sack. Some were questioning the Ravens' pass rush heading into the season, but the effective use of Queen as a blitzer in Defensive Coordinator Mike Macdonald's scheme could be part of the answer.
The Ravens thought enough of Queen's potential to make him a first-round pick in 2020. However, he wasn't a full-time starter at LSU until his final season, playing in a defensive scheme that was far different than Baltimore's. Then Queen entered the NFL during the COVID-19 pandemic, robbing him of valuable offseason work with his new teammates as he transitioned to the league.
Now in his third season, everything seems to be coming together. Queen's upward trend started last year after he moved from SAM to WILL linebacker playing next to veteran linebacker Josh Bynes. Queen started playing with more freedom and he took that up a notch in Week 1, diagnosing plays quickly and taking ballcarriers to the ground with solid tackling.
There's never been a doubt in Queen's mind that he can be a star linebacker, so he isn't surprised when he plays like he did against the Jets.
"That's what I'm supposed to do, that's the player I am; that's the player that I need to be every Sunday that we play," Queen said. "So, now, the focus is just [to] be able to do that consistently."
Queen will get his next opportunity in Sunday's home opener against the Dolphins (1-0), making his defensive reads against Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa. Miami's young signal-caller was excellent Week 1 against the Patriots (23 for 33, 270 yards, one touchdown, 104.4 quarterback rating), and Queen has respect for Tagovailoa's talent after facing him in college at Alabama. The Dolphins are one of the league's top teams at play-action passing and Queen's ability to read and react quickly will be essential.
"He is very accurate, and he can run the ball, too," Queen said. "Dealing with a dual-threat quarterback, everybody has got to be on their keys, everybody has got to be doing their responsibilities. People in the media try to say he's not a good quarterback – this and that. Obviously, if you start for an NFL team, you're a good quarterback. So, we're just going in being prepared, trying to take away those reads."
Playing 84 snaps in Week 1 showed that Queen is in excellent shape, and that working on his stamina during the offseason paid dividends. Head Coach John Harbaugh was pleased with Queen's performance and hopes the defense will get off the field faster against the Dolphins.
"We were hoping that he would be a three-down linebacker, and he's earned that during training camp," Harbaugh said. "I wasn't anticipating him being out there for 84 plays, that's a little much. That's kind of on us too, the whole team.
"I'm not so much concerned about he's out there every snap, it's just kind of how many snaps, and that's more of a team effort."
There were times during Week 1 when Queen was the only linebacker on the field, playing with five or six defensive backs in schemes that allowed the Ravens to cover more ground with their speed. Baltimore may show that look regularly against the Dolphins, who have two of the NFL's fastest receivers in Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle.
But no matter how Macdonald utilizes Queen, he looks prepared for the role. Queen is hard on himself and he's not resting on Week 1. The Dolphins (1-0) beat the Ravens last year and played well in their 20-7 victory over the Patriots in Week 1.
"Any time you face people like that, it's a tough challenge, and you've just got to give respect where it's due," Queen said. "The biggest thing for us is just to come out there, [take] good angles to the football [with] everybody running to the ball at the stack and just try to get these guys on the ground."