On Thursday, Ravens rookie Patrick Queen FaceTimed with the previous LSU inside linebacker to be taken in the first round. There was a lot he could learn from Devin White, his friend and mentor.
“Even though he got hurt, he had pretty amazing stats going into the end of the year,” Queen said of White, who finished with 91 tackles in 13 games, second most on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. “So I try to take up everything I can from him.”
There are worse things for a first-round pick to do than seek the wisdom of a former No. 5 overall pick in training camp. Especially when so much of White’s rookie-year experience will be out of reach for this year’s first-year players.
White had a rookie minicamp and organized team activities; Queen had a virtual offseason amid a coronavirus pandemic. White went through a typical training camp; Queen won’t have padded practices until mid-August. White played 60 defensive snaps over three preseason games with Tampa Bay’s starting defense before his regular-season debut; Queen’s first recorded tackle as a Raven will have to come in Week 1.
“The vets already are ahead of everything, and you are playing catch-up,” Queen said in a conference call Friday. “It’s tough, but at the same time, you have to come in to work. Being at LSU, we were prepared for that — battled-tested and just ready to get acclimated with whatever situation occurs. So that’s what my main focus is right now, just to get acclimated with everything. Try to get to know my teammates. Try to become that person that everybody wants me to be.”
Because of the lineage of Ravens inside linebackers taken in the first round — Ray Lewis in 1996 and C.J. Mosley in 2014 — some of those expectations might be unfair. Queen didn’t lock down a starting job on the Tigers defense last season until October. He doesn’t turn 21 until Aug. 13.
But Queen’s skill set will make him tough to keep off the field. Even with some growing pains expected, the Ravens don’t have a returning linebacker who projects as the three-down force Queen could become. He’s a strong favorite to start their Sept. 13 season opener against the Cleveland Browns.
“Great-looking guy, and [he was] really great to talk to,” coach John Harbaugh said Tuesday. “I’ve enjoyed the conversations. My point is, we haven’t really done any football. We are just walking through a little bit, but he’s a hard worker, very conscientious, smart [and] picks it up quick. … Those guys are what you look for as far as the type of guys you want to bring in.”
“I know in just speaking with him and being in meetings with him, I think this kid can handle it,” defensive coordinator Don “Wink” Martindale said in June. “We’re lucky that we drafted a smart, and then driven, player. He’s going to rise to this challenge. Will it be perfect? No, but we don’t expect that coming out as a rookie.”
Queen called the Ravens defense “very complicated,” but learning LSU’s “very hard” defensive system, he said, has helped him absorb this one. It helps that, for now, Queen’s not expected to wear the defensive headset — that’s still safety Chuck Clark’s job.
Queen said he has so many goals for 2020 that “it’s hard to describe.” He wants to be vocal and physically fit and the best Raven possible. On Friday, a month and a half from his first NFL kickoff, that meant honing his technique and preparing for the next lesson, because “we only have so much time to learn everything.”
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“They take their preseason games here very seriously,” Queen said. “That’s a learning process for us. For me not to be able to get that is unfortunate, but at the same time, you’ve got to adapt. When the time comes for Game 1, let’s rock and roll.”