Patrick Queen didn't look nervous or overwhelmed Sunday. He looked terrific, as did other Ravens rookies like running back J.K. Dobbins who scored two touchdowns, Tyre Phillips who started at right guard and Malik Harrison who had four tackles starting next to Queen at inside linebacker.
Wasn't this supposed to be a difficult season for NFL rookies? It will be difficult for some rookies, but the Ravens' rookies aren't buying that. Queen was all over the field making plays Sunday, leading the team with eight tackles and forcing a third-quarter fumble during Baltimore's impressive 38-6 victory over the Cleveland Browns.
From the moment Baltimore drafted Queen in the first round, he was projected to be the starting inside linebacker, joining a franchise where linebackers have made legacies. That's a lot of pressure, especially for someone who didn't have the benefit of rookie camp or preseason games.
However, Queen looked perfectly comfortable patrolling the same turf where Baltimore inside linebackers Ray Lewis and C.J. Mosley once played. It wasn't Queen who had trouble adjusting to NFL speed. The Browns had trouble adjusting to Queen's speed.
In the first half, he made a quick move on a blitz to sack Baker Mayfield. Not all inside linebackers can get home when they blitz, but once Queen zeroed in on Mayfield, the quarterback couldn't escape.
Then in the second half, Queen seized an opportunity like a savvy veteran when he caused a fumble by Nick Chubb by ripping the ball out of his hands.
After the game, Queen wore a T-shirt with Lewis' image on it, out of respect to the Hall of Famer. Queen knows people are expecting big things from him and he's embracing the challenge.
"I felt very comfortable, the coaches prepared me, guys came and talked to me," Queen said. "I just felt like I was at home. This is what I expected. I wanted to do better than I did, but I'm grateful for what I got."
Asked about the Lewis shirt, Queen said, "It's all about respect. Growing up, the Ravens defense was physical and Ray Lewis set the physicality for the Ravens defense and I'm just giving him his respect wearing his shirt, letting him know I respect his game and I respect what he did for this organization. I'm just trying to follow in his footsteps."
Dobbins had a three-yard touchdown run in the second quarter, and a two-yard scoring run in the final quarter, finishing with 22 yards on seven carries.
Only months removed from being a star at Ohio State, Dobbins has acted like he belongs in the NFL from Day 1.
"The linemen were blocking well, I feel comfortable with all of my teammates," Dobbins said. "I never really get nervous. When I played my first game in college I didn't get nervous. Today I wasn't nervous. I think it comes from working super hard in practice, building my confidence. Definitely happy about my touchdowns but now I got to move on."
Phillips won the competition to start at right tackle, stepping in for the retired Marshal Yanda. It speaks volumes for Phillips' potential that he is starting as a rookie despite the organized practice time that rookies missed due to the coronavirus pandemic. The Ravens still have things to work on, but scoring 38 points in the opener gives them plenty of confidence their offense can still be one of the NFL's best with Phillips as a starter.
Head Coach John Harbaugh was very pleased overall with the contributions of the rookie class.
"I have to give a lot of credit to the rookies," Harbaugh said. "All of them, really, Phillips, Queen, Harrison, those guys played good, NFL football. There's other guys, too, that played on special teams; [James] Proche [II] and Devin [Duvernay] and others, I don't want to forget anybody.
"The fact that now they've got a game under their belt, now they can go, 'OK, I can do this.' And they did it very well."