Each week, Baltimore Sun reporter Jamison Hensley will answer fans' questions about the Ravens. To submit a question, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. Write Hey, Jamison! in the subject field and provide your name, the city you live in and phone number so we can verify the e-mail.
HEY, JAMISON:: Seems there are execution problems with the offense in particular. With the offensive line not doing a very good job in run blocking, where are the strategies that were used last year and were so effective? Also, do you know if plays are being called that require receivers to go down the middle of the field? It's hard to tell from the views on TV, but it appears that receivers are mainly running out patterns. Is this an issue of the coaches not trusting [Joe] Flacco to deliver the ball over the middle, or is it that the throws Flacco feels comfortable completing are to the sidelines?
HEY, BRUCE: : It's apparent that the Ravens' preferred pass play is the comeback route outside the hashmarks. According to ESPN statistics, the middle of the field is where Flacco has thrown his fewest passes (45). The only time he looks there is when he hits Kelley Washington down the seam or dumps the ball off to Ray Rice.
No one will say whether this happens because of trust or comfort issues. The defenses that shut off the sideline passes to the wide receivers - like the Cincinnati Bengals' - have had great success against Flacco and the Ravens this year. Maybe the Ravens should go back to last year's game plan of throwing to the outside but running it up the middle against defenses.
HEY, JAMISON:: What is the deal with Mark Clayton this year? Is he even on the field? Also, aren't the Ravens' top four receivers (Derrick Mason, Clayton, Washington and Demetrius Williams) all free agents at the end of the year? If this is the case, how do you see the Ravens addressing the WR position at the end of the year?
HEY, MATT:: The official game book confirmed that Clayton, above, was on the field, although I sometimes wonder whether the No. 89 for the Ravens these days is really Travis Taylor again. Really, the Ravens should just ban giving that number to a wide receiver again. In his past three games, Clayton has two catches. He is on pace to finish with 40 receptions, which would be a career low. Not a good way to enter the free-agent market.
As for the future of the wide receiver position, lack of production screams for the Ravens to overhaul it. Their priority should be signing/trading/kidnapping a proven No. 1 target. That is a must. But the Ravens shouldn't stop there. They need to draft one in the first three rounds so Flacco has an opportunity to grow with a wide receiver.
It's unknown what the Ravens plan to do with their four free-agent receivers. Everyone assumes Mason is retiring at the end of the season. The team will have the opportunity to re-sign Clayton or Washington, but both should be considered only for the No. 3 spot. Williams, whose role has been diminished significantly this season, probably would want to go elsewhere.
HEY, JAMISON:: Has there ever been a weekend like this last one when everyone in the AFC North put up a goose egg in the win column?
HEY, BILL: : You have to go back to the first week that the AFC North even existed (talk about a division getting off to a bad start!). It happened Sept.8-9, 2002. The Ravens lost at Carolina, 10-7. Cleveland lost at home to Kansas City, 40-39. Cincinnati was routed at home by San Diego, 34-6. And Pittsburgh lost at defending Super Bowl champion New England, 30-14.
The disappointing part about the AFC North's 0-for-4 weekend this year is that it came at a time when NFL observers were saying this was the toughest division in the league. At least the division will have two wins Sunday because the four teams play one another. Hopefully it will be more exciting than Week 10, when the AFC North teams played one another and combined for one offensive TD.