Each week, Baltimore Sun columnist Mike Preston will answer questions from readers about the Ravens. You can submit questions during every game to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Here are this week's questions and answers:
Is there any reason you can see why the Ravens have hardly caused any turnovers so far this season? -- Bob K.
- Ravens re-sign WR Brandon Stokley, cut Bajema
- O-line weaknesses have led to Joe Flacco taking more hits
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The defense is still jelling. The front seven is starting to hit their stride with the number of sacks, but the secondary is still lost. The interceptions and fumbles will start to come once all 11 guys are playing from the same sheet of music.
Is it just me or do the Ravens lack intensity on offense and just seem so predictable? -- Steve M., Fairfield, Pa.
It is hard to have intensity, Steve, when the running backs are struggling to get to the line of scrimmage and the wide receivers drop more balls than they catch. As for the predictable part, the coaching staff needs to help quarterback Joe Flacco out. The long developing, deep routes need to be cut in half. A few quick slants, curls, and crossing routes that allow Flacco to get the ball out of his hands in less than three seconds would help. At this rate, Flacco is starting to resemble a punching bag that keeps popping back up -- and that is a testament to his toughness and durability. The question becomes: when does he not pop back up? He looked a little beat up after Sunday's game.
Why do the Ravens go away from the running game each year, and eventually, after losing games, go back to the run game? -- Craig G., Winchester, Va.
The Ravens are determined to turn the offense towards a pass-first mentality. However, there are several problems with that intention. First, Flacco is not very accurate. He has a career completion percentage of 60.3, but he has failed to hit that mark in 2011, 2012, and through the first five games in 2013. Second, the team has failed to give Flacco the weapons needed to be successful in a pass-first system. The constant rotation of players from Derrick Mason and Todd Heap, to Anquan Boldin and Dennis Pitta, to Torrey Smith and Ed Dickson makes it hard to establish continuity. I know injuries have been a part of this merry-go-round, but Johnny Unitas to Raymond Berry did not happen in a season. Third, the offensive line has not always stood up well in pass-blocking situations. All that being said, if running backs Ray Rice and Bernard Pierce don’t start averaging better than 2.7 yards per carry, it won’t matter if the Ravens run the ball more.
It seems to me that the Ravens have made a huge mistake in paying Flacco so much money versus using some of that money to strengthen the team on an overall basis. I’ve never seen an analysis yet that makes the argument for him to be considered an elite quarterback. While he rightly deserves kudos for his stellar play at the end of last season, it takes two to tango and the team wouldn't’t have won without the strong contributions of other members of both the offense and defense. Should the Ravens have offered a lower contract with incentives, and taken the risk of losing him, for the benefit of building overall greater depth in the team on both sides of the ball? -- Randy, London
Yes, Randy, the Ravens paid too much for Flacco in total value of the contract. That being said, they had to give him a contract that had $120 million on it because that is the sticker price on starting, Super Bowl-winning quarterbacks. Or in the case of the Dallas Cowboys and Tony Romo, quarterbacks who consistently choke in the playoffs and crunch time. The contract is really a three-year deal that will have to be renegotiated. The Pittsburgh Steelers and Ben Roethlisberger, New England Patriots and Tom Brady, Indianapolis Colts and Peyton Manning all did the same thing. The Ravens have just joined the club. Flacco’s overall cap numbers are not that bad at this time.
With the lack of depth at wide receiver, why release Brandon Stokley? -- Bill
The lack of depth at tight end was more pressing. The offensive line is getting beat like a dusty, old rug and tight end Billy Bajema can help block. Then again, the Ravens would have to actually put him on the field to help block.
Do the Ravens regret letting Anquan Boldin go? What was the real reason for not keeping Anquan? Salary cap doesn't seem to justify it -- he was a major reason the Ravens went to and won the Super Bowl. And now we're struggling at WR. -- Steve
The Ravens would tell you "no." They would tell you it allowed them to sign defensive players Chris Canty, Marcus Spears, and Daryl Smith, and they could not have done all of that if Boldin was still on the roster. I would say "yes" because Boldin, even though he didn't get much separation, actually could catch the ball anywhere in the general vicinity.
Although our running game Sunday was slightly better than it was in Buffalo, how can anyone be pleased. Rice averaged 2.7 yards per carry, and Pierce averaged 4.2 only because of his one long run. Plus, our pass protection was once again awful. Substituting Eugene Monroe for Bryant McKinnie will certainly help, but it seems to me our problems along the O-line can’t possibly be solved that easily. Is this fixable or is this what we should expect the rest of the season? -- Stevie B.
Mr. Stevie B, no one is pleased with the Ravens running game. The Ravens are hopeful that Monroe will help the left side of the line, but that won’t matter until the other four members of the line step up their play. This group really needs to figure some things out, and until that happens, Flacco better start wearing more padding.
Do you think McKinnie dogged it on Sunday so as to kill any interest another team may have in him through a trade? So now he can get benched, then cut and eat to his heart's content, collecting what he can from his contract minus the incentives, all the while stroking his well deserved Super Bowl ring? -- Joe
I don’t think McKinnie dogged it at all. He got beat all day by superior talent. McKinnie is having trouble with speed coming off the edge.
It appears that 10-6 will be what it takes to win the AFC North. Do the Ravens even have that in them? I am seeing a 9-7 or 8-8 team at best. -- Fran, Baltimore
The Ravens can reach 10-6 because the NFL is truly pitiful. Outside of Denver, there is no dominant team on the Ravens schedule and that bodes well. The Cleveland Browns will eventually remember they are the Browns, the Cincinnati Bengals look more like the Bungals this year, and somebody forgot to tell the Pittsburgh Steelers the season started.