Patrick Queen continues to change the Baltimore Ravens defense for the better:
The Baltimore Ravens drafted Patrick Queen making their defense more adaptable. Like boxing, football is often a battle of match ups.
The same way a southpaw or “big-shot” pug boxer can take down an elite contender, a seemingly inferior team can give a top-shelf squad fits because of one or two match ups that tilt the competitive balance. Think of those quick Miami Dolphin receivers streaking through the New England Patriots defensive backfield for years, or that Marvin Lewis defense in Cincinnati consistently throwing off Joe Flacco and the Ravens offense. Or what about Jeff Fisher‘s dullard Rams teams trading punches with the famed “Legion of Boom” Seattle Seahawks because of special team superiority.
One mismatch can instantly shift competitive balance, and it has led many organizations to adopting a baseball-type philosophy of finding specialists to erase weaknesses. Like Major League managers bringing in lefty pitchers in the fifth inning or making the 25th spot on the roster a switch-hitting player who can play both infield corner positions; NFL coaches and general managers have gone to running-back-by-committee backfields and several different flavors of linebackers who can substitute in and out depending on specific match ups.
But last year the Ravens made a clear change in their offense that allowed them to be incredibly diverse from play to play, by adopting that “positionless” philosophy of football we are seeing more and more. Much of it was predicated on having a physical offensive line, a quarterback who was dangerous both running and throwing and a stable of running backs who could each take the “lead” role at any time.
But I always felt like the real game-changer — the single thing that set that offense apart outside of having an MVP at quarterback — was the rotating cast of characters at tight end who could run-block, leak out into the flats or burst the seams.
It gave the Ravens flexibility from play to play without making wholesale changes, and mixed with the unpredictability of the RPOs and the constant fear of Marquise “Hollywood” Brown running downfield caused opposing defenders to often flat-out guess what will happen next. That, um, does not always work.
It seems the Ravens are moving the same direction on defense. Safeties Chuck Clark and Anthony Levine are both fully capable of playing that sub-backer role, providing the Ravens flexibility from snap to snap. Calais Campbell and Derek Wolfe are both movable pieces on the line that can shift what the Ravens are doing simply by where they line up.
Marlon Humphrey showed last year that he can capably cover both inside and out, and linebacker Patrick Queen, the team’s first-round pick, appears to be a three-down player who can stick on the field in all packages, making the defense less predictable.
Every single team in the NFL is talented. The teams that win often are the most adaptable, and less likely to be upset by a “southpaw” team at the wrong time of year. Think of how that Titans team ran it down the Ravens throat last year in the playoffs, or how Patrick Mahomes seemed to have all day to find receivers in that early-season match up. Players like Queen, Campbell and Wolfe are additions that can remove some weak spots for the team without relying on a ton of specialists who might make the team vulnerable to other possibilities.