Learning to Play the Game

Patrick Queen’s imprint on the defensive scoresheet was significant with 12 tackles (9 solo), including 3 for loss, and contributions to 7 defensive wins.

However, Queen remains extremely green in terms of both play recognition and knowledge of responsibilities. 

It’s easy to misdiagnose responsibility when charting plays, but two of the indicators I look for are body language and nonverbal signals, particularly from his teammates.  Sometimes they are subtle, like Marcus Peters walking off the field after the 49-yard TD last week with hands hanging limply on both sides.  At Washington we saw:

  • (Q2, 12:42): Peters signaled for Queen to cover 1 of 2 receivers on the ORS prior to the snap.  Queen moved after the snap, but was blocked by RG Schweitzer on PL18.
  • (Q2, 8:50): Queen followed the crossing Isaiah Wright into Fort’s zone as Haskins completed a pass to WR Inman PM13 behind his vacated area.  Fort turned to Queen hands up, said a few words, then gave Queen a low 5.
  • (Q2, 7:30): Queen had coverage of McKissic off the LoS and was beaten by a stutter step and release without getting his hands up to disrupt the route.  Haskins overthrew his RB by a yard, but Queen was beaten and the play brought back memories of Mahomes to Edwards-Helaire from MNF.  
  • (Q3, 8:08): Fort pointed to a spot for Queen prior to the snap.  Queen didn’t move, then dropped into a deeper zone at the snap.  When the throw was completed for a 7-yard conversion Fort made the tackle then looked directly at Queen. 
  • (Q3, 3:43): Haskins completed PM4 to Inman to convert 3rd/3.  The reactions of Averett and Humphrey indicate Queen took incorrect assignment out of bunch formation. Humphrey dropped his hands to his side and shook his head, Averett looked at Queen and pointed to Inman’s feet.

I charted him with responsibility for 7 targets, which resulted in PR18, PM13, Incomplete (see Q2, 7:30 above), PL12, PM7, PM4, PL11.

Watching him fly around the field, the athleticism is constantly on display.  He added some outstanding gap penetration vs the run this week, but he remains infuriating in coverage assignments. 

Missing the preseason and OTAs cannot have helped Queen improve his processing, so I’m going to choose to look at the glass as half full.  If he can make this many plays when he’s doing so much wrong, it’s fun to think how good he’ll be when he learns to play his position.


Note: all snap totals exclude penalties resulting in no play, kneels, spikes, and specials team plays resulting in a run or pass.  As such, they will be lower than other published totals.

Washington ran 70 such competitive, non-penalty snaps. 

Much of what the Ravens needed to accomplish in this game was to deal with the versatility and speed of RB/WR Antonio Gibson and the explosiveness of WR Terry McLaurin.  That simplified many of the package decisions in this game.

Jumbo (1): On the Ravens lone snap of goal line defense, Queen met Barber for a loss of 1.  That snap was 14 jumbo personnel (Sharpe eligible).  However, on the very next play, Washington reverted to 21 personnel and the Ravens returned to the nickel as Gibson punched in the 2-yard TD.

On the final WFT drive, following the bomb to McLaurin that gave them 1st and goal at the 3, the Ravens declined the opportunity to insert the jumbo (or even a base) package, but instead stayed with the dime.  Washington took 3 tries to run for the TD, but Haskins finally snuck in in on 3rd and 1.  Last year at Buffalo, we saw Martindale call for an intentional encroachment (by Clark) to insert the goal line package.  It’s mildly surprising the Ravens did not call a timeout to position a heavier front, even vs 11 personnel.

Base (8): The Ravens allowed 38 yards on these snaps (4.8 YPP) which occurred primarily vs 12 personnel (13 once, 14 jumbo once).  They played their last snap of base on the 3rd snap of the second half (Q3, 7:33).

Standard Nickel (32): The Ravens neutralized 11 personnel runs with the standard (2-4-5) nickel.  Washington ran 9 times for 24 yards (2.7 YPC, long of 9) vs this package.  They passed 23 times for 126 net yards (5.5 YPP) including a pair of sacks and their only turnover.

Washington ran a fair number of plays using 21 personnel with either Gibson or McKissic split wide, but the Ravens response was a standard nickel package.  As Mark Bullock discussed on the Know Your Foe podcast, this has been the typical opponent response.  After an off game against the Chiefs, the Ravens return to strong and balanced nickel results was a welcome development.

Rush Nickel (2): The Ravens showed a new look for both 3rd downs on the first drive while Deshon Elliott was injured.  This could also be described as a heavy dime.  Rather than deploying Anthony Levine as a dime back (he was active but on the injury report all week), Martindale inserted Chris Board with 3 OLBs, Queen, Campbell, and a standard nickel secondary.  Board was aligned by Smith to man coverage of TE Logan Thomas on the left boundary on 3rd and 10 (Q1, 13:22).  He then lined up in the A gap and rushed on 3rd and 6 (Q1, 10:26).

I don’t expect we’ll see this package again unless it comes as a result of injury.  However, if Levine was truly unable to play defensively in this game, and Martindale was unwilling to use special teams ace Jordan Richards in such a role, it’s a little surprising neither Geno Stone nor Nigel Warrior was activated as a 4th safety.  That’s a more striking choice given the Ravens played this game with just 7 DBs (including PS callup Dorsey) other than Levine/Richards.

Jumbo Nickel (5): Martindale deployed the package 5 times, all on 1st or 2nd down, and each with Queen as the lone ILB.  Washington gained just 9 yards (1.8 YPP), including 3 incomplete passes.

Dime (22): The Ravens showed a pair of dime looks, primarily on 3rd down, but also end of half/end of game.  Summarizing the results:

Standard–1 ILB, 3 OLB, 1 DL, 6 DBs (17 snaps): 99 yards (5.8 YPP).  

Racecar– 0 ILBs, 4 OLBs, 1 DL, 6 DBs (5 snaps): 12 yards (2.4 YPP).

Campbell was the lone DL on all 22 of these plays.

Pass Rush

Martindale employed a pass rush that was passive both in terms of numbers and scheme.  Effectively, he chose to allow Haskins to make unforced errors.

Haskins had Ample Time and Space (ATS) on 20 of 48 drop backs (42%) which is lot for today’s game.  On 15 occasions, he threw a pass before the rush had a chance to develop (ball out quick or BOQ), so the Ravens had just 13 pressure events among 48 drop backs.

Summarizing by number of pass rushers:

3: 2 plays, 14 yards

4: 31 plays, 163 yards, 5.3 YPP, 1 sack, 1 TO

5: 11 plays, 86 yards, 7.8 YPP, 2 sacks

6: 3 plays, 8 yards, 2.7 YPP

7+: 1 play, 3 yards.  This was an 8-man rush on the converted 4th and 2.

Total: 48 plays, 274 yards, 5.7 YPP, 3 sacks, 1 TO

Martindale sent just 10 individual blitzes from off the LoS, including 3 each by Clark and Fort.  Despite the reduced blitz total, the Ravens stunted on only 2 plays (3 stunts) which resulted in a QH (Q2, 1:27) and an ATS play that went for 39 yards to McLaurin (Q4, 3:29, 2 stunts).  The Ravens also dropped 2+ defenders from the LoS to cover on 3 occasions.

In total, the Ravens showed a deceptive rush on 5 drop backs which resulted in 45 yards.

Despite frequent ATS, Haskins did little to effectively extend plays, which led to an average time to throw of 2.42 seconds (tied for shortest in week 4 through games of Sunday), an average completed air yards of 3.2 (4th shortest), and an average intended target depth of 4.7 yards (shortest) per Next Gen stats.  With the exception of the bomb to McLaurin, the Washington offense was primarily a mix of screens, rubs/picks, and shallow crosses.

I don’t think Martindale has suddenly developed a reluctance to apply pressure because Mahomes picked them apart on Monday Night Football.  In this game I think he dialed down the scheme and numbers to keep Haskins contained, because he expected quick-release passes, and because he hoped for more unforced mistakes.  One way in which the passive scheme should have helped was in defensing screen passes.  However…

Screens Away

Washington threw 8 screen passes for gains of 9, 18, -1, 40, 0, 4, 8, 4 (10.3 YPP). 

The ILBs and screen-side edge defender are players who need to diagnose these quickly to minimize their impact.  Washington was consistent (and effective) in their efforts to cut block the edge defender.  They also had excellent outside blocking from receivers.  That left ILBs as the players with the best chance to read and react.

In these cases, I think it worthwhile to look for common threads.  Here are my notes on what happened to the edge defender and ILB on each screen:

  • (Q1, 13:22): (screen) Right, Judon cut by RT Moses, Queen mirrors RB McKissic on offensive left side (OLS), PR9
  • (Q2, 12:42): Right, Judon cut by RT Moses, Queen blocked by RG Schweitzer, PR18
  • (Q2, 8:08): Left, LT Christian allows Bowser to slip off, tackle WR 17 for PL-1
  • (Q2, 7:25): Left, LT Christian misses cut on Bowser, but C Roullier block on Elliott extends PL40.  No ILB.
  • (Q2, 0:23): Right, RT Moses missed cut on Judon, but forces him inside, Campbell diagnoses PR0
  • (Q3, 2:31): Right, RT Moses cuts McPhee, Fort blocked in back by C Roullier (no flag), PR4
  • (Q3, 0:21): Left, LT Christian cuts Bowser, Board slow to react, PL8
  • (Q4, 4:54): Right, RT Moses cut causes Judon to stumble, but Fort makes fast diagnosis, tackles for PR4

Individual Notes by Positional Grouping

Note: all snap totals exclude penalties resulting in no play, kneels, spikes, and specials team plays resulting in a run or pass.  As such, they will be lower than other published totals.  

Defensive Line

The Ravens had just 4 DL active (excluding Ricard) so each of Campbell (54 snaps), Ellis (25), Washington (22), and Williams (30) had a larger workload than normal.  Campbell’s 22 additional dime snaps are most of the workload difference from the others.

Campbell had a pair of QHs and knocked down a pass, but the others contributed just 1 pressure (Ellis, Q3, 7:28)

The Ravens missed Derek Wolfe both for his contributions to the pass rush and the plays he could have spelled Campbell.

As a unit, the team effectively neutralized the run for 3.1 YPC and held the point of attack to allow playmaking (primarily by Queen).


LJ Fort (33 snaps) again played well.  He continues to split WLB responsibilities with Harrison, but also played 12 snaps of MLB when Queen was out in the second half.  He’s still played barely a full season of ILB snaps in a 9-year career, but he’s the veteran clearly charged with ensuring Queen, Harrison, and Board play their roles correctly.  

The absence of Malik Harrison (10 snaps) to date may have more to do with the interaction between Fort and Queen than his own play.  Queen clearly needs oversight getting lined up on a snap-by-snap basis.  If Harrison is the WLB, that duty might have to fall to Clark, which would not be optimal.


Marcus Peters was flagged twice for defensive holding, but otherwise was solid in coverage with a 9-yard completion allowed to Sims along with good deep coverage of McLaurin and Inman on an incomplete to each.  He nearly came up with another interception on the PD by Humphrey (Q3, 3:48).

Deshon Elliott played well and we saw more of his range on the back end.  He allowed 2 completions for 21 yards as I scored it, but in 2 cases he helped clean up Queen’s mess:

  • (Q2, 7:30): Elliott bore down on McKissic who beat Queen off the LoS.  McKissic did not lay out for the ball and appeared to be distracted/intimidated by the approach of Elliott as the ball fell incomplete.
  • (Q3, 3:12): Queen ran down the left seam with his back to Haskins perhaps trying to close the window for McLaurin’s deep cross.  Elliott converged to hit both McLaurin (who spun free for an instant) and Queen who left the game for 8 plays.  Elliott looked at Queen and tapped his chest, indicating it’s his responsibility as the back defender to avoid that sort of dangerous contact.

Star Treatment

Marlon Humphrey (70 snaps) was easily the Ravens most valuable pass defender:

  • (Q1, 14:08):  McLaurin maintained long block on Marlon in level 2 on Gibson’s RL10.
  • (Q1, 4:09):  Gibson bubbled past him to the edge on PM17 (2 + 15 YAC) [2].
  • (Q1, 3:03):  In the process of tackling McKissic for no gain, he pried the ball loose and Peters recovered.
  • (Q1, 1:26):  He made a nice open field tackle on WR Wright PR3 (-4 + 7) [5].
  • (Q2, 9:26):  He again tackled Wright on PR1 (-7 + 8) [4].
  • (Q2, 1:10):  He immediately took down McLaurin PR3 (3 + 0) [4].
  • (Q3, 7:28):  He undercut McLaurin’s route to force Haskins to ground the ball.
  • (Q3, 3:48):  He punched the ball free from McLaurin for a PD, which was nearly intercepted by Peters.
  • (Q3, 0:47):  He lost McLaurin on a rub route by Inman to surrender PR3 (3 +0) [5] to McLaurin that converted 4th/2.
  • (Q3, 0:21):  He was blocked by WR Sims on a screen right to Inman PL8 (-3 +11) [2].
  • (Q4, 12:22):  On 3rd/Goal from the 22, he tried to strip RB McKissic as Bowser tackled him.  Good gamble in loose zone defense.
  • (Q4, 11:42):  On 4th/13, he pushed WR Wright out of bounds for a drive-ending PR5 (4 + 1) [5].

Matthew Judon (40 snaps) had a big day as a pass rusher:

  • (Q1, 10:26):  He rushed unblocked off the ORS for S-9. 
  • (Q2, 1:49):  His positioning and hands up forced Haskins to throw a risky overhand lateral to TE Thomas for RR9 (-10 + 19).  Had Judon been able to contact the football, that would have created a turnover or a big loss.
  • (Q2, 1:27):  He beat RT Moses outside for a QH.
  • (Q2, 1:10):  He again beat RT Moses outside for a QH.
  • (Q2, 1:02):  He beat RG Schweitzer for a fast S-13.
  • (Q3, 1:35):  He beat LT Christian outside for a fast QH to force Haskins to throw away. 
  • (Q4, 4:36):  On 3rd/6, he knocked down Haskins’ pass for RB McKissic at LoS.

Defensive MVPs

Amid many candidates:

  1. Marlon Humphrey
  2. Matthew Judon
  3. DeShon Elliott

Others earning honorable mention are Tyus Bowser, Calais Campbell, LJ Fort, and Patrick Queen.