It’s hard to realistically imagine a better start to the season for the Ravens’ rookie class.
Even without a normal offseason, training camp or full slate of preseason games, the Ravens started rookie linebackers Patrick Queen, Malik Harrison and right guard Tyre Phillips. Running back J.K. Dobbins saw more snaps than any running back on the roster. And all of them either met, or exceeded, expectations.
Queen led the Ravens in tackles (eight), Dobbins scored two rushing touchdowns and Phillips played well in the first game without legend Marshal Yanda.
The draft class was widely praised after the 10-man group was selected in April. Sunday, they showed why.
“I thought both those two guys played really good football, especially for their first time,” coach John Harbaugh said of his rookie linebackers. “Good starts for those guys. There will be things that they can learn from, and they’ll see right away when they look at it — things that they can improve and carry forward. But I was pleased with both those two guys. I thought Malik played very well, also.”
Of the 10 rookies on the Ravens’ roster, three were inactive: Defensive lineman Justin Madubuike (knee), safety Geno Stone and guard Ben Bredeson. Every other rookie saw the field.
Harrison registered four tackles, wideouts Devin Duvernay and James Proche each played on special teams and defensive tackle Broderick Washington saw nearly 40 percent of snaps.
The easiest rookie to project into the lineup Sunday was Queen, the first-round choice out of LSU. From day one, he was penciled in as the team’s starting inside linebacker.
“It’s what I expected,” Queen said on Sunday, wearing a Ray Lewis shirt. “I wanted to do better than I did, but I’m grateful for what I got. I prayed about it, slept on it, dreamed about making plays. I actually dreamed about that same play that I made the tackle on, so it’s crazy how things work when you pray about it. But I can’t ask for a better first game.”
Queen was the standout, but was merely the headliner of an outstanding day for the Ravens’ rookie class.
“It’s the NFL — we’re rookies, but at the same time, we’re all in the same place, doing the same thing, and we’re all trying to make a statement,” Queen said. “Anytime our number is called, we’re coming to play and coming to dominate. Everybody that comes in, they’re going to get our all, and that’s all we can ask as a team. As a coaching staff, they just want us to play 100 percent.”
Queen had perhaps the most important job, but no one had a bigger hole to fill than Phillips, who was taking over for Yanda at right guard.
The rookie out of Mississippi State played tackle in college, but transitioned to guard when picked by the Ravens. He beat out veteran D.J. Fluker for the spot and started in-between center Matt Skura and right tackle Orlando Brown Jr.
“To start on the offensive line as a rookie at a position that you didn’t play in college, it’s pretty remarkable,” Harbaugh said. “He has a long way to go. He can improve so much, but I look at that as a real positive. He’s only going to get better, because he’s really smart and he’s really a detail-oriented person. He’s the kind of guy who once he’s experienced it, he corrects it.”
Phillips helped pave the way for Dobbins to score two touchdowns on seven carries for 22 yards. Dobbins wasn’t involved in the passing game, but was featured heavily in the red zone.
They may just be rookies, but they’ve got a role on the Ravens roster this year — perhaps sooner than originally thought. And not only that, they’re talking like season veterans already.
“I never really get nervous,” Dobbins said Sunday. “When I played my first game in college, I didn’t get nervous. Today, I wasn’t nervous. I think it just comes with practicing super hard, building my confidence in practice. It’s definitely a blessing just to be in the league and playing with this great team. Right now, 1-0 — it’s time to lock in on the next opponent.”