Baltimore Sun columnist answers a selection of reader's questions about the Ravens 31-17 win over the Denver Broncos Sunday, including questions about Joe Flacco's mechanics, which are probably not as developed as they should be, and on the Ravens use of running backs Willis McGahee and Ray Rice in goal-line offensive formation.
Bill: I realize that this question may have been asked before, but I have not seen an answer. I would like to know what the story is on Jason Phillips regarding his pass coverage, is it mental, physical, or both? He intrigues me and would really like to know.
Mike Preston: Phillips plays hard and with great emotion. But he is stiff and a liability on pass coverage. He could play inside with another linebacker against the run, but could never play the middle alone in a 4-3. He isn't very good in space.
John: Why are the Ravens having problems inside the 5-yard line?
Mike Preston: They just had a couple of technical problems Sunday, like getting overextended on blocks, or not keeping their feet moving after initial contact. Willis McGahee didn't run with a lot of force on the first goal line situation against the Broncos. I would like to see some more pick plays and rubs as far as the passing game. You can only run so many fade patterns in those situations.
Jerome: I have noticed that the Ravens pass rush is almost none existent and [ Kyle] Orton hit us up for 314 yards. What do the Ravens need to do to produce more hurries and sacks?
Mike Preston: Be careful here. There were a lot of times the Ravens were in a prevent defense and only rushing three to four players. If the other team has you outnumbered by one or two, then they should win. With that said, if the Ravens want to take that next step in truly being a great defense, they have to get more pressure with the front four. Right now, that can only be improved with technique. In the future, the Ravens might want to select better overall defensive linemen instead of basically signing run stoppers. They need an inside pressence to complement Terrell Suggs on the outside.
Pete: The refs haven't stole any games from the Ravens this year yet. What gives? Did [ Steve] Bisciotti get proactive? Pete
Mike Preston: No, but John Harbaugh did. He emphasized cutting down on the lack of penalties in training camp and had officials there just about every day. I watched the Jets last night on "Monday Night Football," and they still commit dumb penalties. For the most part, the Ravens have played smart football in 2010.
Ted: Have you heard any more news on Jared Gaither?. What kind of vibe are you getting from other players in the locker room about this situation.
Mike Preston: I don't think the other players care anymore, and have moved on without him. Actually, the offensive line has played extremely well in the past two games, and Marshal Yanda seems to have adjusted to life back at right tackle. My guess is that the Ravens will put him on the injured reserve soon because they have to make some roster moves with two key players coming off the physically-unable-to-perform list. I've advocated moving Yanda back to the tackle spot since last spring when Gaither came up with the mysterious foot injury.
Bob W.: Help those of us handicapped by watching on TV. After the first quarter, were the receivers covered that well or was Joe Flacco just unable to find them?
Mike Preston: From midway in the second quarter until early in the third quarter, Joe Cool turned into Joe Erratic and the Ravens had to pull the plug on the passing offense. Receivers were open, but Flacco was off target. That's Joe's MO. He is very streaky, and the Ravens want him to become more consistent.
Brett: Other than Ed Reed do the players in the Ravens secondary lack the instincts to get interceptions or is it just a combination of bad luck and good play from the opposing teams so far?
Mike Preston:They can't catch. If they could, the Ravens might have as many as seven interceptions this season. You know how the old saying goes: If they could catch, they would be wide receivers. Reed has great hands, and the next best pair belongs to No. 52.
Kelly: Do you think Flacco struggles more against man coverage then zone?
Mike Preston: I would say zone. With man, it's one-on-one and easier to read, which plays to Flacco's strength. When teams drop six or seven into coverage, Flacco has to read more and that causes problems. Flacco's biggest problem is that he struggles with mechanics, and I don't think he is going to get much better with them. At his age, he should have the mechancis down by now. He can and will improve in reading coverages with more time. A year ago, I thought Flacco's ceiling might be in the Philip River's class. Now, I think it might be more in the Tony Romo class, which is still in the upper half of quarterbacks in the NFL, and certainly good enough to win a Super Bowl.
Joe: Why do the Ravens continue to use Willis McGahee to rush near the goal line when he is hesitant or stutter steps before hitting the hole? Ray Rice scored twice from 1 yard out and seems to be a better fit.
Mike Preston: After McGahee got train wrecked by James Harrison last week in the Pittsburgh game, he was running in la-la land. He started off the same way against Denver, but once the Ravens started giving his carries to Rice and fullback Le'Ron McClain, McGahee got the message. I think the Ravens will be fine with Rice, McGahee or McClain. I do like those fullback dives or blast to McClain. That's a lot of man to stop in short yardage.