Baltimore Sun columnist Mike Preston answers a selection of reader questions after the Ravens' 25-15 win over the Cleveland Browns on Sunday.
Jerry Brotman: In your judgment, how much responsibility should Cam Cameron and/or John Harbaugh assume for an offense that has been characterized over the past four-and-a-half years as inconsistent, dysfunctional and out-of-sync and continues to perform unevenly not just from week-to-week, but also from quarter-to-quarter?
Mike Preston: After the Cleveland game, there is hope. The Ravens ran the ball and stayed with it. I don't think the Ravens need a run-first mentality, but the problem has been that they totally go away from it and just become too pass happy at times. The ultimate responsibility falls on Harbaugh. It's his team and the assistant coaches have to follow his demands. I would just like for the Ravens to go into the game with a plan, and if it doesn't work, move on. Too many times, especially early in the season, this team gets caught up with trying to become a passing team built around Flacco and it never works out. I think an offense should be balanced, but the running game, especially for a team on the East Coast, should be its bread and butter. Here, it only becomes that way once everything else fails.
Right now, at least, the Ravens are back to being a running team.
Joe from Bel Air: Joe Flacco has proven time and time again he is not a top-tier QB, despite his claims to "check the tape." With his contract up this year, the Ravens and Flacco are going to presumably be miles apart on the money. What are the odds this is his fifth and final year in a Ravens uniform?
Mike Preston: Flacco is a good quarterback, not great, but good enough to win a Super Bowl. I can't see this being his final year. Overall, he has played well and should command a hefty salary from the Ravens in line with other quarterbacks on his level. He is way too good to allow him to leave and then have to start over again. I think Flacco will be in Baltimore for a long time.
Bill: Is there a reason why the Ravens refuse to stay with a power running game for four quarters? I would like to see a running game similar to the one they had in Flacco and Rice's first year.
Mike Preston: For the past three years, they have tried to build the offense around Flacco and it hasn't worked. He just isn't good enough to carry an offense by himself. But given a better offensive line, he can get the Ravens where they want to be. I'm a firm believer this offense should be built around Rice and he has to touch the ball 25 to 30 times a game. In the past two weeks, I have also written that the Ravens should give the ball to backup Bernard Pierce more if they think Rice can't handle a heavy work load. Maybe the Ravens play conservative on the road and will open it up at home. It will be interesting to see what happens Sunday against Oakland. Last week the Ravens ran the ball well against Cleveland. Oakland also has a poor run defense, but Flacco plays much better at home than on the road.
Brent Englar in Mt. Washington: What’s the story behind the penalty on the bench that offset that Browns unnecessary roughness penalty in the second half? And why has our bench now committed two penalties in eight games (the first was against John Harbaugh in the Patriots game)? Just coincidence, or indicative of a larger problem? We seem more penalty-prone in general this season.
Mike Preston: The second one was on Harbaugh as well. He has to learn to control himself better on the sidelines. There have been times when the Ravens have received unsportsmanlike conduct penalties and they were unnecessary. Well, how can a coach reprimand his players when he shows the same behavior on the sidelines? It's not a good example. It's one thing to be emotional and fight for a player, but not to the point where the behavior becomes detrimental.
Gary: Why are our receivers so rarely open? We have six receivers on the roster. If Anquan Boldin/Jacoby Jones/Torrey Smith can't get separation, is it a certainty that Deonte Thompson, LaQuan Williams or Tandon Doss won't be able to get open either?
Mike Preston: It's a group that can be rated anywhere from solid to good, but only Smith puts fear in a defense. No one is quivering about the backups, either. But again, given time and some decent play-calling, they could be a lot better.
Anonymous: I made a point of watching individual defensive lineman for the Ravens this weekend. How did we get this slow?
Mike Preston: Slow? They don't get off blocks either. With the exception of Haloti Ngata, it's not a very talented group. The Ravens had hoped some of the young players would step up, but they haven't. Again, I recommend the Ravens draft more versatile, athletic defensive linemen who can play regardless of the down, yardage or situation. If you want to see what I'm talking about, watch the New York Giants or the Houston Texans. The Ravens draft too many situational players, like run stoppers. And when they can't stop the run, the defense is in trouble. It's been a major problem this season. The Ravens simply have to do a better job of drafting.
Dean Terry: Mike, it looks like Corey Graham is getting more playing time now. I saw him get beat several times but at least he was aggressive. Your take on what he brings to the secondary?
Mike Preston: He's just a backup, but nothing to get excited about. He is solid, but expendable. But you are right -- at least he's aggressive, which you can't say about the Ravens' starting cornerbacks.
Surfside Raven: Mike, who’s the better corner, Cary Williams or our old friend Frank Walker?
Mike Preston: It's no contest. It's Williams. Hell, I'm better than Frank Walker.
David N. Bell in Baltimore: Are we going to see Bryant McKinnie this year? I thought that last year he did a pretty nice job.
Mike Preston: He has a cloud following over him at The Castle. Barring injury to one of the starters, the next time you might see McKinnie is catching a bus out of town or a cab to the airport.
Jack Bentley: Might be time for the Ozzie Newsome to step down. I think in the last couple of years he has really missed on some draft picks and free agents. Here is my list of players that should maybe be on the practice squad rather than the 53-man roster. Terrence Cody; Paul Kruger; Jameel McClain; Albert McClellan, Jimmy Smith, Michael Oher.
Mike Preston: All general managers miss on players. But overall, there aren't many GMs better than Newsome. There are several guys on your list that I'm not excited about either, but the Ravens are 6-2. If they were 2-6, you'd have more of a valid argument.