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Ravens Q&A with Mike Preston

Baltimore Sun columnist Mike Preston answers readers' questions about the Week 9 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers, Lardarius Webb's struggle to recover from his knee injuries and more.

Before his knee injuries, Lardarius Webb was being touted as a shutdown cornerback and a potential All-Pro. Can he ever regain that form or has he lost a step or confidence? -- Alan W.

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Alan, you said a key word: Webb was touted. He was never a true No. 1 cornerback and was never a shutdown cornerback. He is a good, serviceable cornerback. Additionally, Webb is injury-prone. The Ravens made a mistake by signing him to a six-year, $50 million deal in 2012. They made a further mistake by restructuring his deal and pushing more money against the salary cap into future years. I think what you are seeing from Webb right now is as good as it is going to get.

It seems clear that no one on the Ravens has stepped up as any sort of leader since Ray Lewis and Ed Reed left. Joe Flacco and Haloti Ngata are quiet guys who do their jobs most of the time, and Terrell Suggs just gets more clownish and "all about me" each week. Who is helping to train the young men on this team?  It's starting to look like the end of the Brian Billick era when the inmates were running the asylum. What do you think can be done? -- West Va. Ravens fan

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This team has a huge void in leadership. There is not one player who can stand in front of the other 52 men on this team and command their attention. You are correct, Flacco and Ngata do not have the personality for it. Suggs is just not the natural leader that Ray Lewis was on the football field. Steve Smith only has been here for nine weeks and can't be expected to provide that type of leadership yet. Ray Lewis is a once-in-a-generation player and leader. The Ravens need to find that player, and that player is probably not currently on the roster. The Ravens also need to find playmakers. If you make big plays in crunch time, you get instant respect. Unfortunately for the Ravens, they lack both leadership and playmakers.

Jacoby Jones finally did it. I had a feeling he was going to take one back, and he did. But does this mean he's back? -- Mike T., Columbia

I would not say that Jones is back, but at least he made an appearance. Hopefully that 108-yard return is the spark he needs to get his swagger back and provide the Ravens with good field position and the occasional splash play on offense.

Steve Smith had a very quiet game Sunday night. He hasn't had over 100 yards in the last three games after reaching that mark in four of the first six games. Are opposing teams finally figuring him out or do you expect him to bounce back? -- Bill, Monkton

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Bill, it looks like Steve Smith is wearing down. In NFL years, Smith is probably 105 years old.  The upcoming bye week should help him for the stretch run. Also, remember, the offensive line hasn't played well in the past two games. That group's performance has an impact on all offensive players.

What makes Dean Pees think his depleted secondary can adequately cover receivers with a four-man pass rush? -- Jerry B.

Jerry, it is clear covering with only four was not working either. So really, what was the difference? You just can't blitz every play. You have to mix and match coverages and strategy. Maybe Pees needs to blitz more, but the Ravens have major issues in the secondary that no one can hide.

It's no secret that the Ravens' secondary is pedestrian at best without Jimmy Smith. With a performance like they had Sunday night, do they finally try to sign Asante Samuel? Reports say the only reason he isn't signed is because of a high salary demand. I'm sure he would be better than what we have. -- Herb M., Florida

Herb, an aging Samuel is not the answer for the Ravens. Just like an ageing Champ Bailey was not the answer. But I have an idea! Purchase Google Glass for the secondary, then download Google Maps, then Google a clue. At this point anything is worth a shot.

The Ravens offense is clearly the best that we have seen in the John Harbaugh era, but why are they still so inconsistent, especially on the road? -- Jason, Federal Hill

Quarterback Joe Flacco is inconsistent. The offensive line is inconsistent. The play-calling is inconsistent. Hence, the offense is inconsistent. The Ravens pad their stats against the bad teams, but they don't get it done against the quality competition.

Everyone raves about Marshal Yanda being a stud blocker, but during the game against the Steelers, he was running around on several pass plays looking for someone to block when the pressure was coming right up the middle. Is the blocking scheme just bad? -- Greg S.

Greg, the Ravens whole offensive line was terrible against the Steelers. You can't blame just Yanda. Eugene Monroe played soft. He probably woke up screaming from visions of James Harrison. Kelechi Osemele, Jeremy Zuttah, and Yanda were completely dumbfounded by the stunting of the Steelers defensive front. Rick Wagner probably had the best game of the group, but that is not saying much.

Which veteran players could be gone in the offseason? Would the Ravens consider a massive overhaul if they miss the playoffs again? -- Ed, Dundalk

Ed, it is only Week 10. That is an end-of-the-year question.

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