Patrick Queen isn't oblivious. He's not burying his head in the sand.
The Ravens' second-year linebacker knows he needs to play better not because of what he sees from the social media critics, but because he understands what he's capable of and he sees his mistakes when he flips on the film.
Queen had a strong rookie season that earned him consideration for the Defensive Rookie of the Year award. With a full offseason of work, there were high hopes for a Year 2 breakout. That hasn't materialized yet, as Queen got off to a tough start this season. He's missed too many tackles and was trying to do too much.
"Still need room to improve. Everybody knows that. It's obvious," Queen said Tuesday. "It's just a level of being consistent, being dominant. Just going out there and play football like I know I could play, like they know I could play. That's all it is, and that's all it's going to be. Just got to get better."
The Ravens took action by shifting Queen from the MIKE linebacker spot responsible for a lot of the on-field communication and playing nearly every snap to WILL linebacker, which comes with less mental responsibility and more freedom to run around and make plays.
With Josh Bynes now as the MIKE linebacker, it also means less snaps for Queen. He went from playing 94% of the defensive snaps over the first four games to 43% of the snaps Sunday against the Cincinnati Bengals.
Last year, Queen was named the AFC's Defensive Player of the Week after playing the Bengals at M&T Bank Stadium in Week 5. He blasted former LSU college teammate Joe Burrow for a sack/forced fumble and returned another fumble for a touchdown.
It's a tough transition for the 2020 first-round pick to make, but it's one he's handling with grace and approaching with optimism.
"It's what I used to play at LSU, so I kind of had a feel to it," Queen said. "And just being alongside somebody that's been in the league a long time, it helps me a little bit. It's a confidence thing. I just got to go out there and play the game that I know I can play at a high level."
According to Pro Football Focus, Queen's 10 missed tackles this year are tied for the seventh-most in the league. Queen has shown his ferocity as a hitter, but it's the more routine tackles that he needs to make more consistently.
"Thinking too much, overthinking," Queen said. "It's just technique – just go in there, break down, tackle, move your feet, wrap up. It's a lot of times that I just threw my shoulder in there. I wish I could take those plays back and just redo them, re-live them, and just execute on that part. It would've saved us a lot of yards, a lot of points. But the only thing I can do now is just improve on that, get better at that, and just try to help my team win more games."
Inside Linebackers Coach Rob Ryan said moving Queen to WILL/DIME is meant to slow the game down for him and utilize his speed. Is also allows Bynes, an 11-year veteran with tons of experience and knowledge, to take over the responsibilities of getting the Ravens' defensive front aligned correctly pre-snap.
"You can see it's already slowing down the last two weeks. I think he's played well the last couple of weeks," Ryan said. "Again, he does have all the talent in the world. So, as soon as the game can slow down for him, the better he's going to get. We're excited about that."
Queen has gotten his best PFF grades of the season the past two games. He was the Ravens' third-highest graded player on defense against the Bengals, which included a tackle for loss on running back Joe Mixon when Queen came flying through a gap. Ryan also said Queen's pass coverage is "much better," which was a main focus entering the season.
Whether Queen remains at WILL linebacker for the long-term remains to be seen. Ryan said whenever players land with a team, they have to "find their best spots."
"This young guy is going to have a big career in front of him," Ryan said. "So, I know everybody wants to see him be Ray Lewis right away, but I mean, Ray Lewis wasn't Ray Lewis when he first got here. Things take time, and you're going to see this guy get better each week. The fundamental parts of it, those are things that he has to do better."
Queen entered the NFL with high expectations, but he's still just 22 years old and has limited experience. He wasn't a starter until his final year at LSU. The Ravens knew when they drafted Queen that it might take some time to mold his special traits into a consistently dominant football player.
Will that ultimately be at MIKE linebacker or WILL?
"Wherever I perform at better is where I'm going to play," Queen said. "I'm going to leave that to the coaches. I'm just out there to perform, do my best, and whatever they feel like is the best at the end of the day. That's what I'm going to do."