Baltimore Sun columnist Mike Preston answers readers' questions about the Ravens' win over the Jacksonville Jaguars, the performance on special teams and more.
Mike, I don't understand why Lardarius Webb is ever back to receive punts. We have a depleted secondary, and yet we expose our starting cornerback to a situation where we could lose him to injury. I know Jacoby Jones hasn't had an electric year back there, but I'd rather lose him than Webb. Even if Webb is only there to fair catch, there could be a fumble or someone could hit him unexpectedly and injure a player at a position we can't afford to lose. Can you tell me what the coaching rationale is for this? -- Rick, Lutherville
Rick, I have heard this question from numerous fans. It is simply an issue of making sure the catch is made. I agree, it should be Jones back there 100 percent of the time.
Mike, How bad was the Ravens' special teams play and coaching Sunday? Let's see: 1. Delay of game and a high snap resulting in two missed field-goal attempts; 2. Giving up an onside kick and fake punt that, against any other team, would have cost us the game; and 3. Two more (in a seasonlong streak of these) holding and blocking in the back penalties. Here's my question: How much longer can former special teams coach John Harbaugh tolerate this performance before making a special teams coaching change? The penalties, are a seasonlong affliction; I would love to know how our special teams penalties stack up against the league. -- Mike
Mike, the special teams unit, for the most part, has performed well this season considering injuries and turnover in personnel. Penalties are always infuriating. My personal favorite is the block in the back penalty. If you can read the name on the back of the jersey, do not block him. It is simple. As for the onside kick and fake punt, the Jaguars are not a good team. They have to rely on plays like that to keep it close. Think back to the first two seasons of John Harbaugh's tenure as head coach. There were a decent amount of gimmick plays run then as well. You actually have to give the Jaguars credit, that was one of the best onside kicks I have seen executed. The Ravens should have been prepared. When a team is desperate for a win, they will try anything. We can put more of the blame on the coaching staff than the players.
While not a great deal to go on, what were your impressions of Rashaan Melvin? At least he was playing the position and not dancing in space like the others do at times. -- Ray D.
Well, considering what we saw, you have to be encouraged. Melvin is getting his chance, and he better make the most of it. I liked that he attacked the ball and was decent in tackling. Hopefully, he can develop quickly. If the Ravens make the playoffs, he will need to really step up. But we really shouldn't make a big deal out of players after their first game. There was a lot of praise for cornerback Anthony Levine weeks ago, and now he needs a GPS system to get on the field on a regular basis.
Mike, This game Sunday should be the "poster child" example of why the NFL should not expand the playoffs. Between the bad plays, drawn out penalties and overall lack of intensity, the NFL is a bad product. Do you think the Ravens will ever be anything other than a lethargic-paced, slow-moving offense that mirrors Joe Flacco's personality? Between flags, commercials and boredom, man, it was hard to watch. -- John G., Baltimore
John, the NFL is the end all be all of sports! How could you say that? Actually, when you add on that defenders can no longer hit, every deep ball that is not caught is a penalty, and every decent pop of the pads is a penalty, the game is almost unbearable to watch. Forget the playoffs, it's hard to believe the NFL wants to expand to an 18-game regular season. Ask the Houston Texans, who have gone to Walmart this week for a quarterback, if they want to expand.
Were the Ravens' coaches aware of the Jaguars' love for trick plays? I was. My son was. My grandmother was. -- Scott L.
Ask grand ma-ma if she wants a job coaching for the Ravens. Little Scott can come along, too.
Do you think Torrey Smith will be with the Ravens next year? -- Wayne P.
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Wayne, I believe that will be one of the most interesting questions for the Ravens this offseason. Torrey Smith is well liked in the community and is one of the faces of the Ravens with his local ties. However, he has not developed into the receiver the Ravens had hoped for. He can only run two routes, a go and a slant, and is not consistent in catching the ball. He also seems to struggle with confidence from time to time. If he has an outrageous contract demand, and I don't know how he could, then you will see him in another uniform.
It is terrific to see C.J. Mosley continue the Ravens' tradition of outstanding play and leadership from the inside linebacker position. How does his rookie year compare to Ray Lewis'? How do his strengths and weaknesses compare? Thank you! -- Josh G.
I am very hesitant to compare Mosley to Lewis. It puts unfair pressure on Mosley. Lewis is a once-in-a-generation player, and with the changes the NFL has made in defensive rules, may actually be the last of his kind. However, there are similarities anyone can see. Mosley has terrific speed, the ability to get from sideline to sideline, and he makes sure tackles. He still has a ton of upside. It will be fun watching him develop.
Hi Mike, I'm really happy with the progress Joe Flacco and the offense are making in Gary Kubiak's offense. Flacco's willingness to change shows a lot of maturity and professionalism, especially for a quarterback who has already won a Super Bowl. Should John Harbaugh get more credit for bringing the offense to this point? He got rid of Cam Cameron and Jim Caldwell when their offenses sputtered, and hired Juan Castillo to teach zone blocking, which left the team open to a Kubiak-style offense. -- Jerry, Lutherville
Harbaugh deserves credit for getting rid of Cameron, and he would have fired Caldwell, too, if Caldwell had not gotten the job with the Detroit Lions. Harbaugh had very little choice but to hire Kubiak because that decision was forced on him by upper management, which turned out to be a great choice. So far, it appears Kubiak and Harbaugh have gotten along well. As for the Juan Castillo hiring, what a difference a year makes. Last year, he was possibly the most hated man in Baltimore. Now, people sing his praises. Kubiak, though, threw out Castillo's old system and implemented his own. Kubiak has made the major difference in this offense and Flacco.