The Ravens' season opener Sunday against the Cleveland Browns will mark the NFL debut for Queen, who’s stepping into a position almost viewed as hallowed ground in Baltimore.
Lewis' 17-year career and legacy have been well-chronicled. The second pick in the franchise’s history after left tackle Jonathan Ogden, Lewis cemented himself as a Hall of Fame player, emotional leader and standard-bearer for a physical defensive tone that has become synonymous with the organization.
A little over a year after Lewis' retirement, Mosley followed as the No. 17 overall pick in the 2014 draft out of Alabama. Mosley accomplished about as much as any player could have in his first five seasons: four Pro Bowl selections and All-Pro honors that led him to sign one of the richest deals for an inside linebacker with the New York Jets last offseason.
These are the expectations Queen face, fair or not. Shortly after the team selected the Tigers standout, coach John Harbaugh side-stepped any comparisons, instead opting to praise the upside of a young player who didn’t claim a starting role until the fourth game of his junior year.
With the Ravens, he’ll be relied upon as the centerpiece of a remodeled front seven. Having just turned 21 years old in August, Queen will join a shortlist of 10 Ravens who have started a game in their age-21 season. Only running back Jamal Lewis will have made his first start at a younger age.
Queen by all accounts has acclimated well without a full offseason program and any preseason games. When asked if he expects Cleveland to test the novice, defensive coordinator Don “Wink” Martindale replied, “I’m sure they will.”
“They’re going to give us different looks and we’re going to give them different looks, and that’s the chess match of the game,” Martindale said Thursday on a video conference call. “I’m sure they will, and I think [Queen] is going to be up to the challenge.”
Through a reduced training camp, Martindale and Harbaugh have pressed for patience, saying that the unique offseason will have effects on everyone, even a player as gifted as Queen.
Lewis said he hasn’t spoken with Queen but has been impressed with his physical traits.
“He has a knack for the football,” Lewis said in a phone interview. “And that’s what the game is transitioning to. A lot of linebackers are not even on the field on third down. With his body style, he can be a [three-down] 'backer.”
Lewis likened Queen’s situation to a quarterback succeeding Tom Brady or Peyton Manning but believes he’s up to the task, saying he “freaking gets it.”
“That spot is the general,” Lewis said. “It’s the general of the defense. You’ve got to know everything.”
The similarities between Queen and Lewis might just begin and end with the position they play. The typically mild-mannered Queen likely won’t ever be introduced to home crowds to the tune of his own hype music and personalized dance. It might take years for him to grow into a fraction of the vocal leader that Lewis ever was.
But at least on Sunday, Queen will be able to lay the foundation of his own legacy at a position the franchise has come to expect great things from.
“When you think about Ray Lewis, you think about an elite linebacker – speed, physicality, aggression, dominance,” Queen said in his first news conference after being drafted. “I feel like I’m more mobile than he was. Not taking anything away from him, he was a great linebacker, probably the best to play. But I’ve got a lot to live up to. The bar is set high.”
Early to rise
Only nine players have started their first career Ravens game in their age-21 season. If Patrick Queen starts Sunday against Cleveland, as expected, he’d be the second youngest ever. Here’s how he’d stack up.