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Ravens Q&A with Mike Preston

The Baltimore Sun

11:43 AM EST, November 19, 2013

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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:

Can you comment on John Harbaugh's development in game and clock management? Six years into the job, and yet he still seems to challenge plays either out of desperation or frustration and manage the clock as if he has no foresight for the end of the game. How does he rank among other coaches? Is he really in the top tier? -- Zach F., Washington, D.C.

Zach, he is a Super Bowl-winning head coach, so of course he is in the top tier. All teams struggle with clock management and challenges. The Ravens seem to be struggling more this year because they are losing. Overall, I think it is the weakest point of Harbaugh's game as a coach, but he has a lot of strengths as well. All NFL coaches have strengths and weaknesses.

Why is it that when the Ravens really need the defense to step up late in the game, they consistently fail? Are they gassed, fooled, or just not good enough? -- Jeff F., Stewartstown, Pa.

D. All of the above.

What is your take on Jim Caldwell and the offensive scheme and play-calling? I understand the O-line issues and inexperience among the receivers, but I watch other teams with less talent manage to do a lot more with less. It seems like the opposing defenses, as well as viewers and commentators know what plays we are going to run before they happen. Everything is so vanilla and obvious. Flacco seems to look for his check down before his progressions, and Torrey Smith is capable of making far more plays than he's given the chance to. Do you think Caldwell is back next season? -- Adam C.

Adam, it is hard to tell what an offensive scheme is or how the play-calling is working when the quarterback and running backs are constantly under siege. I am not throwing Caldwell out one season after winning a Super Bowl because the offensive line has played so poorly.

How much longer are we going to have to suffer through the poor quarterback play of Joe Flacco? He makes the same mistakes every week, there never seems to be coaching on the sideline, and he has the same befuddled look. Does he think that he knows it all, or is it just a lost cause we have to ride out for another six seasons? -- Tony P.

Tony, the Ravens will have to address Flacco’s contract again after the 2015 season when the salary cap numbers become too high. There was a breakdown of Flacco’s contract from Aaron Wilson in March that you can read here.

As for the repeated mistakes and befuddled looks on the sideline, Flacco is who he is. He can be anywhere from good to average on any day, in any quarter. You might want to find a comfortable chair, relax, and enjoy the ride. It could be bumpy if the talent around Flacco does not improve because he can't carry a team.

By the way, have we met somewhere before?

Even when the Ravens get a nice lead in the first half, we always seem to blow it. The last two weeks saw a 10-point and a 17-point lead fizzle away. Some people blame the defense (it is their job to stop teams from scoring points, after all). But I put the blame on the offense. I wonder what our percentage of possessions go three-and-out? The defense is playing great, in my opinion, and you can't ask them to be on the field with virtually no breaks. The Ravens can never seem to "put a game away." Wouldn't you put more blame on the offense for blowing these leads? -- LordBern, Bel Air

As discussed in previous weeks, there are far too many occasions when the offense goes three-and-out and doesn't give the defense a chance to rest. If the Ravens offense could convert just one of those three-and-out drives each game into a touchdown this season, they would have only lost one game. I have a hard time blaming the defense this year.

The field had no bearings on the Ravens' loss, but I was worried that someone might get seriously hurt. With the five or six fields that are still grass in the NFL -- and they are all among the worst in the league -- how long before the NFLPA demands something be done about it? -- Don C., Charleston, S.C.

There have been issues made where fields had to be re-sodded during the season, such as Heinz Field in Pittsburgh. I like the grass field. On Sunday, there was an old-school flavor and feel. I think there should be more natural grass fields.

Since we are obviously lacking playmakers and sure tacklers in the middle of the defense, do you think the front office will admit not giving Vontaze Burfict a look as a free agent was a mistake? Our refusal to draft or sign young free-agent players because of so-called character issues is hurting the team. Burfict and Kiko Alonso in Buffalo are only two current play makers who are three-down linebackers with skills that could help us. Why is this never written about? -- Calvin, Tuscon, Ariz.

The Ravens have taken chances on high-risk character guys, such as Rolando McClain. It just hasn't worked out for them. How about Sergio Kindle, remember him? Or, we can go back as far as Bam Morris. In the NFL, a lot of these players are "high-risk" guys. If that was the criteria, there wouldn't be a league.

How come the Ravens have such a difficult time covering bunch receiver sets? -- Eldon D.

It is a design used to confuse the defense. You can use it to avoid certain jams on certain receivers or use it to set up rubs or pick patterns. It is effective, especially when you have big receivers like the Bears. It was effective Sunday.

Would it have been a good time with the weather and field conditions to have Tyrod Taylor on the field? At worst, he would have been a good decoy. -- Bob B.

We go through this every week, yes, Tyrod Taylor should touch the field for a handful of plays every week at this point. Everybody else seems to have gotten the message, except for the play caller over at The Castle.

Will we see Dennis Pitta again this year? -- Champe A.

With the likelihood that the Ravens will be out of contention when Pitta is able to return, we probably should not expect to see him.