Each week, Baltimore Sun reporter Jamison Hensley will answer fans' questions about the Ravens. To submit a question, e-mail email@example.com. 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:: I see two, maybe three, rebuilding years ahead before the Ravens are competitive again, especially the way Ozzie [Newsome] picks "best available" rather than for need. In addition, the Ravens seem to never grab good free agents, but look for the castoffs like Chris Carr and Domonique Foxworth. Do you agree?
Mark A. Frazier Sr. Delmar
HEY, MARK: : I guess they don't just jump off the bandwagon in Delmar. They take a running leap off it. Unless I'm looking at the standings wrong, the Ravens are 6-6 and still in the wild-card race. I agree the Ravens aren't the Super Bowl contenders that everyone expected this season. But the Ravens are competitive right now, so you don't have to wait two or three years.
The common thread among teams that make the playoffs year after year - the Indianapolis Colts, New England Patriots and Philadelphia Eagles - is their stability at quarterback and at head coach. The Ravens should be playoff contenders every season because they have Joe Flacco and John Harbaugh. The only rebuilding I can see is at wide receiver, where everyone is a free agent at the end of the season.
When assessing the Ravens' free-agent signings, it's hard to use the label "castoff." The Ravens hit on several big-name ones over the years: Sam Adams (2000) and Shannon Sharpe (2000), Derrick Mason (2005), Samari Rolle (2005), Trevor Pryce (2006) and Brendon Ayanbadejo (2008). I can see why fans are disappointed with Foxworth and Carr. But what should they have done? The Ravens needed a cornerback. The other options were Leigh Bodden, Bryant McFadden and Jabari Greer. The pickings were slimmer when trying to fill the need for a nickel back and returner. Carr was the best choice.
HEY, JAMISON: : We all talk about Harbaugh's doghouse. Le'Ron McClain in any doghouse right now? I know I'm not an NFL coach but I can't understand why they don't give him more carries. Why do the Ravens try complicated things in goal-line situations when they just have to pound the line with McClain? The guy is 255-260 pounds, he was the best running back last year, but this year he never touches the ball. I don't get it.
Mikael Rassat Paris
HEY, MIKAEL: : McClain isn't in the doghouse because it's totally full after that ugly effort in Green Bay. Just kidding. McClain isn't getting carries like he did last year because the Ravens don't have any other fullback. The team could have re-signed Lorenzo Neal, but the veteran couldn't stay healthy for the Oakland Raiders this offseason. It seems like his playing career is over. If the Ravens had another viable option for a lead blocker, they would give the ball more to McClain. The Ravens have tinkered with using guard-center Chris Chester at fullback.
I am an advocate of using McClain at the goal line. The Ravens went with the jumbo package of McClain and Neal last season, scoring 10 touchdowns with them. Now, let's super-size it. Let's go colossal with 345-pound Haloti Ngata at fullback and leading the way for the 260-pound McClain. That would be a nightmare for any defensive player.
HEY, JAMISON: : Can you highlight some positive differences of Harbaugh's regime in comparison with the Billick regime in his last 3-4 seasons? Regardless of personalities or approach, it would appear to me that the same issues that plagued Billick (i.e. inconsistent offense, penalties, lack of discipline, clock management) are issues with Harbaugh-led teams.
David Lutman Birmingham, Mich.
HEY, DAVID: : Some of these games are reminiscent of the Billick era, and I guess you can see that all the way from Michigan. The clock-management problems can be chalked up to Harbaugh's still learning as a head coach. If he repeats the same mistakes next season, then there should be cause for alarm. The inconsistency with the offense falls on Cam Cameron. But that should get corrected because it's hard to argue with Cameron's track record as an offensive coordinator once he gets his types of players (he'll continue to build around Flacco and Ray Rice).
The blame for the penalties ultimately rests on the players. The coaches can point out the mistakes on film, and they can scream at players when errors occur on the practice field. But players are the ones who commit the mistakes on the field. Of the 22 starters in this year's Ravens season-opening lineup, 15 started under Billick. So, the same players commit the same number of penalties.