Jamie Sharper spent five seasons with the Ravens and helped form one of the greatest linebacker trios in NFL history with Peter Boulware and Ray Lewis.
In 2003 and 2004 with the Houston Texans, he led the league in tackles by 305 and ended a nine-year career with 879. He missed just eight games his entire career, including a streak of 136 games played in a row in the regular season.
Sunday afternoon, Sharper, 46, is still watching the Ravens, even though he is a defensive line coach in Georgetown. While some have already buzzed on the Ravens second year inside linebacker Patrick Queen, Sharper has been impressed.
“He’s a great athlete,” said Sharper, who returned to Baltimore for Georgetown’s game against Morgan State on Saturday. “He plays some games and he plays fast because he’s a good athlete. He actually plays faster than his keys show, which is why he’s sometimes out of step.
“But you can definitely build and win with him. He is physical, young and can run side by side. ”
The Queen, 6-foot, 232-pound first-round draft pick from LSU in 2020, is in transition. He struggled during the first six games this season as a center linebacker, but has been impressive in the last three, where he has played on the weak side.
His tackles are down, but his overall performance is better. Queen still leads the team in tackles with 47, but has only registered 13 playing on the weak side. He has gained more penetration and made several stroke plays, including a sack and a forced fumble.
According to Sharper, there is a big difference in playing the middle as opposed to the outside. Lewis made those around him better, but linebackers from the weak side like Sharper and Bart Scott also made Lewis better.
With Lewis in the middle, they grabbed the blocks, allowing Lewis to use his speed to make tackles across the field. Sharper played linebacker from the weak side in Baltimore, but both the weak side and the middle in Houston. He played all three positions, including linebacker from the strong side, in Virginia before the Ravens made him the No. 34 overall in the 1997 draft.
“I’ve played everything and it’s a big adjustment,” Sharper said. “When you’re in the middle and they’re running after you, make sure you can put it on right away. When you are on the weak side, or the back, always stay on the back of the running back. You can run with a pulling lineman, but you can not give up the back because you are the last line of defense on the top seven.
“You see a lot of offenses in the NFL that pull linemen or drive the wrong ways because they want to get the linebackers out of position, and that only takes one step. Just remember that running back will take you to the ball.”
Compared to being in the middle, defending the race is less complex and less physical because linebackers from the weak side are usually revealed. But learning to play pass defense is more of a challenge, especially with the constant movement and shift, because the strong side can quickly become the weak side. Outside linebackers have much more area to cover and there is also the concern of rolling coverage to certain external receivers or channeling action to the slot.
It’s not always fun.
“Drop to a hook or fall to the outside [in coverage] will have more effect on him than compared to the run, ”Sharper said.
Like most Baltimore fans, Sharper has noticed the missed tackles from Queen this season. Sometimes it can be a result of the Queen getting to the ball carrier prematurely and not getting her body under control.
The poor tackle is not just a Ravens problem, but one in the entire league.
“Over the last three or four years, the basics of learning to tackle the shoulder and break down with the feet have been overlooked,” Sharper said. “A lot of the time, coaches just look at the Xs & Os and put a guy in certain positions. So when the athlete can’t tackle the open field or they whistle, the coach wants to know why. I’ve seen it in college. and high school.Everyone also wants to make the big hit.
“[Queen] will get it down. Sometimes you react to what you see and it is good to be able to come as quickly as possible. But you also need to realize where the track is or the back of the hip pursuit. You have to slow down for a second, make sure your feet are square before diving, and try to do a blow-up tackle. ”
According to Sharper, Queen is still in the learning process. He says he will get better at playing against AFC North teams because he sees them twice a year. The key, Sharper says, is not just learning your defense, but how offenses will attack it.
“You can not really get to that level until your second or third year,” Sharper said. “Once you can figure it out, you’ll be able to play more games at your position.”
Moving Queen has helped both the defense and veteran Josh Bynes, who has taken over as center linebacker. Bynes has made 22 tackles since replacing Queen and has become one of the best vocal leaders on the team. The defense still has some holes in the back end, but inside and weak linebacker positions have become less worrying for coach John Harbaugh.
“I think he really reinforced that,” Harbaugh said of Queen. “He plays really well. He plays a little more of the WILL position, and I think he’s a little simplified, in his mind, what his responsibilities are. I’m really happy with the way he plays, both over for the race and in the drop-offs. Both zone and man coverage – he has looked good. ”
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