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Ravens Q&A with Mike Preston

FootballPro FootballHigh School FootballBaltimore RavensJohn HarbaughBryant McKinnie

Each week, Baltimore Sun columnist Mike Preston will answer questions from readers about the Ravens. You can submit questions during every game to sports@baltimoresun.com.

Here are this week's questions and answers:

What is up with the run game? It seems everyone is to blame. The blocking is poor. Ray Rice can't break a tackle in open space, much less 4 yards from the end zone. And the play-calling kept sending the runner up the middle. Is this the best we are going to see? -- K.C., White Marsh
 
K.C., that is a very good way of placing blame. The offensive line needs to block better, the running backs need to break tackles and make people miss, and the coaching staff needs to do a better job preparing the offensive unit and in-play selection. As for is this as good as it gets, let us hope not because there is still 10 weeks to go.

How much does Rice's health factor into his performance? He's basically vanished. What's going on here? Keep up the good work. -- Tom, West Palm Beach, Fla.

Tom, the Ravens should be very concerned about Ray Rice. The shelf life of a running back in this league is about 3.5 years, You have to be concerned, especially since this is the second year of a five-year contract.

Mike, could we see Jim Caldwell be the fall guy this season if the offense continues to struggle? Or do you think it should be Juan Castillo? If that happens, wouldn't a bigger issue be evident considering John Harbaugh did the same thing to Cam Cameron last year? -- Billy B., Parkville

I don’t think there will be a fall guy this year. Offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell was widely praised as one of the reasons the offense turned around last year. Run game coordinator Juan Castillo is a very good friend of Harbaugh's. Also, Harbaugh praised Castillo as the best teacher he knows. I think that there are just too many voices in the offensive line meeting room.

Harbaugh has to be the stupidest coach in the NFL. I don't blame him for going for the TD at the Packers' goal line. A college team, maybe even a high school team, could have scored there. How can anyone justify that bonehead pass that wasn't with under a minute to go in the first half, when we were getting the ball back to start the second? Unbelievable. -- John P.

John, I can think of a number of coaches who have made worse decisions than the one Harbaugh made at the end of the first half. It was a poor decision and so was the gamble to go for it on fourth-and-goal, but the decisions were logical. They made sense, but the execution wasn't there. Were they the right ones? Evidently not, the Ravens lost.

Was this one of Harbaugh’s worst coaching jobs in his NFL career? -- Howard D.

No, the loss to Jacksonville in 2011 was a worse coaching job.

I have noticed that, for as long as I can remember, the Ravens receivers seem to never get good separation while running their routes. This has gone on for a long time. Can you tell me why? -- Steve S.

The Ravens don’t seem to evaluate the receiver position well, which they have admitted. They also haven't had the luxury of drafting a receiver in the top 10 picks of a draft. But Marlon Brown appears to be a keeper and Deonte Thompson has potential. They are young, and let's see how they pan out. But you are right, the Ravens have struck out in the past.

It seems to me that the biggest loss for the Ravens is Matt Birk. It is obvious that he was the glue of the O-line. Your thoughts? -- John D., Lutherville

This offensive line is dealing with a number of issues. Center Gino Gradkowski is just one. The Ravens hoped that a full year in the system, weight room, and meeting room would have prepared him better for this year. Unfortunately, that has not been the case. He will get better with time. The Ravens have also struggled at both tackle positions, and they didn't have that problem last year, at least not in the postseason.

What is the deal with Bryant McKinnie? I heard he said he was injured and that's why he was inactive, but he wasn't on the injury report all week? Is that an excuse? Can't the Ravens get in trouble for not reporting his "injury" if it's real? -- JT, Rosedale

John Harbaugh said during his news conference that offensive tackle Bryant McKinnie was a healthy scratch. It is obvious that McKinnie is back in the doghouse, and he earned that spot. He certainly won't be around after this season.

The Steelers finally got their first win this past weekend. Sure, it was over the New York Jets, but now they have momentum going into this Sunday's game against the Ravens. And it's in Pittsburgh. Are the Ravens in danger of falling to 3-4? Can they recover from that with the bye week after that? -- Jeff P., Philadelphia

The Steelers will play the Ravens tough, they always do. The defensive front seven, on both teams, will decide this game. Check for the predictions article later this week for my official pick (cheap plug). The Ravens will get to self-scout, and make major adjustments during the bye week. They will be fine.

True or false: The Ravens will make the playoffs this season. -- Jack, Cleveland

True.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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FootballPro FootballHigh School FootballBaltimore RavensJohn HarbaughBryant McKinnie
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