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Queen, Burrow to square off in the first of many AFC North battles

The former LSU playmakers will face off for the first time as divisional rivals

NCAA Football: College Football Playoff National Championship-Clemson vs Louisiana State Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

As the Cincinnati Bengals travel to Baltimore for their first of their two divisional games this year, two young, emerging talents, who happen to be former teammates, will face off for the first time. Both first-round draft picks to AFC North rivals, Joe Burrow and Patrick Queen had similar, yet different paths to helping the LSU Tigers capture the 2019-20 FBS Championship.

Queen was a four-star running back in high school and a highly-touted prospect. He stayed local, choosing to follow up his prolific career at Linovia High School by attending the in-state LSU. Queen, however, didn’t receive any significant playing time until nearly midway through his junior season.

Ravens GM Eric DeCosta was asked about Queen’s long wait to find playing time.

“He’s not an entitled guy,” DeCosta said. “This is a guy that didn’t start for most of his career at LSU. And so, I think this transition to the NFL, that’s going to help him … because it’s a difference coming up to this level of football, with really good players at every single position. It could be a challenge for some guys, and I think Patrick has kind of already undergone that challenge in some respects.”

Queen only started four games before finally breaking into a major role in 2019, ultimately helping LSU achieve a national championship. Joe Burrow’s path also included adversity. Burrow, who was named Mr. Football in Ohio, as well as Gatorade Player of the Year, also went to the local football powerhouse, Ohio State University. Just like Queen, Burrow struggled to find playing time as the incumbent J.T. Barrett led OSU to a 38-6 record as a starter. After Barrett left, Burrow entered the transfer portal upon learning that Dwayne Haskins would be succeeding Barrett. Burrow transferred to LSU, where he won the starting job and led LSU to a 10-3 record despite missing spring ball as a late May transfer.

While Queen’s patience paid off in the end, Burrow was forced to forge his own path. One that led him and Queen to join forces, becoming leaders on a team that raised a banner. Interestingly enough, Burrow and Queen once came to blows in practice. LSU head coach Ed Ogeron recounted for NFL Network —

Burrow and Queen are both fiery competitors, so this should surprise no one. Each respective LSU Tiger has started to make a name for themselves with stellar play that have outshined their learning curves.

While Burrow has shown flashes of poise, accuracy and athleticism similar to his historic season at LSU, he still has much to learn, self admittedly.

Burrow has also struggled to throw deep with consistent accuracy. According to Sports Info Solutions, Burrow has only thrown 7/20 passes 20 or more air yards on target, completing just one of his 20 deep attempts, the worst rate in football. For comparison, Lamar Jackson (who has admitted he’s been less accurate than he desires) has been on target with 50% of his deep attempts, completing 31.3%, which blows Burrow out of the water in both categories.

This is what happens when rookies learn to swim by get throwing in the deep end, a result of no minicamp or preseason. Queen has similarly had his ups and downs. Queen flashed much of the sharp diagnosis against the run that made him a first-round prospect at LSU against Washington in Week 4, which was encouraging.

Queen registered three tackles for loss, while smoothly navigating Washington’s run concepts. Queen has had other strong moments this season, too, including a sack and forced fumble in Week 1. It’s good to see Queen shining in a similar way to his strengths as a collegiate athlete, showing that his skills transferred after jumping from the college ranks to the NFL.

While Queen has flashed with highlights, his consistency is still a work in progress. He’s been picked on a bit in coverage, often having to work through picks and trash to find his way to cover backs out of the flat.

Per Sports Info Solutions, Queen has still been a net positive in coverage, allowing five of nine targets to be completed for 55 yards.

Sports Info Solutions uses a metric called “Points Saved” for pass coverage, which is defined as such: “The total of a player’s EPA responsibility while in coverage using the Total Points system that distributes credit among all players on the field for a given play (with positive numbers being good). For pass defenders, this includes accounting for pass rush, broken tackles, dropped interceptions, turnovers, and turnover returns.”

According to this metric, Queen has saved the Ravens defense 5.8 points in pass coverage, while opposing passers have had a -2.4 EPA when throwing at Queen, although he’s yet to make a truly impactful play in coverage through four games.

As expected, both Burrow and Queen have shown awesome talent, yet struggle to find consistency as rookies. It’s still quite early in the season, and as previously mentioned, the learning curve could be steeper than usual because of a COVID-19-adjusted season. Regardless, these two first-round picks hailing from LSU have shown promise, figuring to produce fireworks for years to come as they square off twice per year. Their relationship will most certainly be a talking point of the CBS broadcast on Sunday and for the foreseeable future.

These two LSU alumni will get to face one another in a live setting for the first time in Week 5. For entertainment purposes, let’s hope their first matchup produces plenty of awe inspiring plays to create a fun storyline moving forward.