Two former LSU Tigers, Joe Burrow of the Bengals and Patrick Queen of the Ravens, face each other on Sunday in an AFC North clash.
It was only in January when Joe Burrow and Patrick Queen were battling for a common goal. They succeeded on that occasion, bringing the College National Championship back to LSU. Now the former teammates sit on either side of a divisional rivalry between the Cincinnati Bengals and the Baltimore Ravens. There will be only one victor come Sunday afternoon.
Early season promise
The transition to the NFL is never easy. However, with no preseason, both players have had to adapt on the fly as day one starters. Week four proved to be a highpoint for both of them. Burrow was key to chalking up the Bengals’ first win, while Queen grabbed headlines for the Ravens. He put on a show vs the Washington Football Team, logging a team-leading 12 tackles, including three for loss.
It epitomized what made Queen a first-round pick in April’s draft. The linebacker is quick and athletic. Making plays downhill is where he thrives. When Queen is tasked with locating a ball carrier and delivering a hit, he showcases the best side of his game. It has left analysts cooing over his early season performances:
"Despite just turning 21 years old in August, he is already on his way to becoming one of the Ravens’ impact players on defenseDane Brugler, The Athletic"
The Bengals aim to find a chink in the armor
Although Queen earned rave reviews this week, it is yet to be reflected in his PFF season grade. So far, he is ranked as the 77th out of 79 eligible linebackers with a grade of 29.3. Why the difference between PFF and the general consensus that Queen has fit smoothly into the Ravens’ defensive structure? Pro Football Focus writer Sam Monson explains:
"Few players are as active on defense as Patrick Queen has been for the Baltimore Ravens, but he has yet to fashion that into a coherent run of positive play in a game. Two missed tackles against Washington undid some of his good work leading the team in both tackles (10) and defensive stops (6).In coverage, he surrendered a catch on six of the seven targets he was in primary coverage for, giving up 77 total yards and a 112.5 passer rating. You get the sense that an elite game is waiting somewhere in Queen’s future. The only question is when it comes."
It’s clear the aspect that is currently holding Queen back is his play in coverage. While producing highlight-reel tackles in the run game, he has been exposed when dropping back on passing downs.
The Ravens have suffered only one defeat this year and it is more than excusable, considering it came against current Super Bowl champs in the Chiefs. On more than one occasion, Queen was caught out of position while covering another former LSU Tiger, running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire.
Could the Burrow to Mixon connection be key?
The odds are stacked against the Bengals this weekend. The Ravens have become one of the slickest operations in pro football. If Cincinnati stands any chance, then it’s more than likely their offensive production will have to be at full throttle to match that of Lamar Jackson and company.
Knowing that Queen is most effective playing downhill rather than in pass coverage, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Zac Taylor continue a trend we saw develop against the Jaguars. Joe Mixon was targeted a season-high six times in the passing game. Only once in his career has he been targeted more. He enjoyed a 100% catch percentage and was rewarded with an excellent receiving touchdown.
The Bengals offense will need to draw on all aspects if they are to truly challenge the Ravens. Making full use of not only Mixon but also Giovani Bernard in the passing game could be a way to unlock a well-drilled defense. Who better to expose any shortcomings in the second level than Burrow, with his knowledge of Queen’s game.
Targeting Queen in coverage could be key to the Bengals keeping their groove going from their victory over the Jaguars.