It’s been one heck of a year for Joe Burrow and Patrick Queen, who won a national championship together at LSU before becoming first-round NFL draft picks and immediately shining as high-impact rookies.
As they did last season in practice, Burrow and Queen will be peering at each other across the line of scrimmage when Cincinnati (1-2-1) faces Baltimore (3-1) on Sunday.
Burrow — the top pick in the draft — will be looking for his fourth consecutive 300-yard passing game, and Queen — selected 28th overall — will seek to add to his team-leading total of 33 tackles as the Ravens starting middle linebacker.
Burrow and Queen possess an unyielding desire to excel, which made for what Queen described as a “crazy relationship” while they were together as LSU.
Asked to elaborate, Queen said, “It’s just typical football stuff. It’s one person gets heated, then stuff breaks out. And that’s really all I really want to say about that.”
Queen was far more chatty when delivering his scouting report on Burrow, the first rookie in NFL history with three straight 300-yard games.
“Great quarterback. He’s going to stay in the pocket and try to throw the ball,” Queen said. “I just look at it as, as many times as we can hit him, hit him. He’s a great competitor, and we just have to get after him.”
Queen had 12 tackles last week against Washington, including a sensational one-handed throw-down on the goal line, a play Burrow no doubt saw on tape more than once.
“He’s a great player,” the quarterback said of Queen. “I’m excited to play against him.”
Burrow has revived Cincinnati’s offense by slinging the ball efficiently between effective runs by Joe Mixon. The Bengals have averaged 28.6 points over their past three games, with Burrow throwing for a cumulative 928 yards with six touchdown passes and just one interception.
“There are high expectations there, and he’s fulfilling them,” Ravens coach John Harbaugh said.
Burrow has taken quite a few hard hits thus far, partially because of offensive line problems and to a degree because he’s quick to flee the pocket in an effort to make something happen. After taking eight sacks and getting hit 10 more times two weeks ago against Philadelphia, Burrow was hit five times in a 33-25 win over Jacksonville on Sunday.
But he was sacked only once, and that was in a situation where the Bengals had to run some time off the clock.
Burrow has been hit 36 times in four games. At least a couple came a tick late and weren’t flagged, including a shot from Jaguars linebacker Cassius Marsh. Asked if officials missed it or if it’s something to expect — a rookie quarterback not getting a call — coach Zac Taylor demurred.
“It’s a great question,” he said. “We’re trying to see what we can do there.”
Bynes is back
Linebacker Josh Bynes has provided hard hits on the field and leadership in the huddle with the Bengals since leaving Baltimore to sign as a free agent during the offseason.
Bynes says his time in Baltimore provided much-needed experience “and knowing what it takes to win. Obviously, I won a Super Bowl there and was successful last year.”
As a former teammate of fleet-footed Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson, the 2019 NFL MVP, Bynes know the Bengals defense will be tested.
“He’s dynamic in all forms of the game,” Bynes said. “He can throw, he can run, he can make you miss, he can do it all and that’s what makes him a hard person to stop. Ultimately, he’s a playmaker.”
The Ravens have forced a turnover in 17 straight games, the longest active streak in the NFL.
“It’s always a point of emphasis. It’s something that we talk about every day on defense,” Harbaugh said. “We have drills directed that way and we try to practice that way. We try to scheme that way, too. And then our players, we have players that do make those plays.”
Most notably, cornerback Marlon Humphrey, who has accounted for 11 of Baltimore’s 29 takeaways during that 17-game span.
Finally in sync
Cincinnati rolled up 505 yards, including 151 rushing by Mixon and 300 passing by Burrow.
Right guard was a trouble spot in the first three games, but former practice squad player Alex Redmond started against the Jags and seemed to help shore things up.
Left tackle Jonah Williams believes the 500-yard afternoon was the result of all the offensive elements clicking at the same time.
“I think that if you watch the offense as a whole, everything was in rhythm,” he said. “Us protecting was part of that, but additionally, the receivers being open. Joe’s able to get the ball out a little bit faster and we had a lot of success running the ball. So that opened up our play-action game and took a little bit of pressure off everyone.”