Baltimore Sun columnist Mike Preston will answer fans’ questions throughout the Ravens season. Coming off Baltimore’s 37-3 win in Week 9 against the Seattle Seahawks, plenty of questions remain heading into a Week 10 matchup against the Cleveland Browns.
Here’s Preston’s take:
(Editor’s note: Questions have been edited for length and clarity.)
In the offseason, you called for the Ravens to part ways with Lamar Jackson and take a long look at coach Harbaugh. Going into the Seattle game, you picked the Seahawks to win. You seem to consistently rate the Ravens as no better than one of the better-to-average teams. Yet, the Ravens are now 7-2 as a team without any serious weaknesses. Would you care to reassess your opinion at the midseason mark? — Tom in Catonsville
Tom, I also picked the Ravens to beat Indianapolis and Pittsburgh, and they lost both games. It’s about consistency, not now, but in December and rolling into the playoffs. The Ravens haven’t hit that level yet consistently on offense, and the coaches and the players are aware of an area in which they need to improve.
As for Jackson, he demanded to be traded and I would have obliged him. The Ravens would have, too, but 31 NFL teams backed off.
Can the Ravens win a Super Bowl this year? Of course, but so can Philadelphia, San Francisco, Kansas City and even Cincinnati, which was struggling early in the season. It’s not where the team is situated in November, but how it’s playing heading into the postseason.
As for Harbaugh, I’ve had problems with his clock management decisions and being too aggressive in the past but wrote he was one of the top-five coaches in the NFL.
Here’s the bottom line: There are three keys to winning the championship. One is balance on both sides of the ball. The team with the fewest weaknesses usually wins.
Secondly, the Ravens have to be able to put together three or four strong performances in the postseason to win a championship, something they haven’t done since the 2012 season. That’s consistency.
Finally, Jackson has to step up his game in the postseason. Quarterbacks carry teams in the playoffs, and he hasn’t been able to do that in the previous five years. If he does and the Ravens win the Lombardi Trophy, great for them.
What is your opinion on Marlon Humphrey’s performance so far this season? In past years, he has been a standout on defense. Now, it seems that he has been in the background. Is it because there are so many other standouts on defense? Thanks and keep up the great work. — John Sinclair
Humphrey missed time in the preseason with a foot injury and it takes time to get back into playing shape. I think he is a good cornerback, but not great. I also think he is better playing inside or against a slot receiver or tight end than playing on the outside. Humphrey isn’t that fast. That said, he does have a presence in the locker room and is a leader on the field.
Overall, the cornerback position is an area in which the Ravens have a problem, but the pass rush has made up for some weaknesses.
As for Humphrey, he’ll come around.
It was around this point in the 2019 season that the Ravens started not just beating teams, but beating them down, and the current team is starting to give off vibes of that team with the Big Truzz-type fun/team spirit. Does the 2023 Ravens defense put them ahead of 2019 for you? Thanks. — Paul Moss
Yes, indeed. Overall, I have not been impressed by the quality of play in the NFL. It has dropped off in recent years, and the league is starting to look a lot like the NBA during the regular season. But this defense has been dominant most of the season, and there are some similarities to 2000, when the Ravens had better athletes and were physically tougher. They punished teams.
This group has a higher football IQ. When you talk and meet with these guys, it’s a pretty bright bunch, and you can see why coordinator Mike Macdonald can give opposing offenses multiple looks.
Maybe a big key was bringing in Chuck Smith as the team’s outside linebackers coach and pass-rushing specialist for this season. The lack of a pass rush has hurt the Ravens for many years, but it’s no longer a problem.
With Patrick Mahomes having to do everything without a group of receivers that can’t get it done in the passing game and solely a tight end to rely upon (sounds familiar), and a Bengals team with an injured starting quarterback to begin the season (rather than later) that has had success in the past two seasons following a plethora of injuries to a team that was not only your rival in the division but also had the lead in the conference going into later stages of each of those seasons, how is it the Ravens are constantly criticized when these other two teams are praised when they win and given the benefit of the doubt whenever they struggle or are off their game? — Greggory Washington
Let’s see. The Bengals have been to the AFC championship game the past two years and have a great young quarterback in Joe Burrow, who seems to have them in the title hunt again. The Chiefs have won two of the past four Super Bowl titles and Mahomes might end up being the best quarterback to ever play the game.
Until further notice, as former Ravens coach Brian Billick said after winning the title in 2000, “We are the champions until someone takes our crown.”
Many in the national media have jumped on the Ravens bandwagon recently. It’s all part of the hype, similar to promoting the NFL Most Valuable Player and the Heisman Trophy.
The 3-4 defense started in 1976. Since then, I think Roquan Smith and Patrick Queen are the best inside linebacker tandem ever. I can’t imagine the Ravens letting Queen walk. Does that make Ronnie Stanley and Marlon Humphrey possible cap casualties? — Patrick Tracey
Between defensive tackle Justin Madubuike, Geno Stone and Queen, the Ravens have a lot of tough decisions to make. Both Madubuike and Queen would be wise to hit the open market unless Ravens general manager Eric DeCosta offers them some type of blockbuster deal.
There are some creative ways DeCosta might be able to sign Stone and either Queen or Madubuike, but the recent multiyear signings of Jackson and Smith make it really hard. There are windows for teams to win a Super Bowl, and the Ravens are in one right now.
Looking at the upcoming three games before the bye, what are your feelings about the Ravens facing the Browns, Bengals and Chargers? Can the Ravens keep rolling? — Ed Helinski
No one in this league is unbeatable. It will be interesting to see how Deshaun Watson plays in his second consecutive start since returning from a shoulder injury, and the Bengals are playing well, especially on defense. There is no fear of the Chargers because they are always soft and have a strange coach in Brandon Staley.
But again, it’s not where you start, but where you finish. The second half of the Ravens’ schedule is much tougher than the first.
Have a question for Mike Preston? Email email@example.com with “Ravens mailbag” in the subject line and it could be answered in The Baltimore Sun.