Baltimore Sun columnist Mike Preston answers a selection of reader questions on the Ravens' loss to the Cincinnati Bengals.
Francis: Why did they even bother to play the game against the Bengals? It was a travesty from the fans' point of view. If I had paid to watch this game, I'd be asking for my money back. Don't the fans count anymore in the NFL?
Mike Preston: Francis, the only fans that really count in the NFL are the ones who pay for commercials, the corporate suites, and put logos all over complexes. Why do you think that the teams still play four preseason games? It is to make every dollar possible. It is just good business, but poor as far as building relationships with fans.
The NFL has never cared about fans, only about stuffing money in their pockets.
JB: Did any of the backups really impress or surprise you in the Ravens' loss to the Bengals?
Mike Preston: I was impressed by how hard running back Anthony Allen ran against the Bengals, and how aggressive cornerback Chykie Brown continues to play in press coverage. Allen showed a good drive by continuing to move the pile on a couple of occasions.
Unfortunately for the Ravens, all of the injuries this season have let us see what the second string can do all season.
Bob K.: The number of penalties the Ravens commit, especially major ones, is very disturbing. You would think this late in the season the Ravens would show more discipline and avoid these stupid penalties. They are the league leaders in penalties committed. Is it a coaching problem?
Mike Preston: Overall Bob, this is a coaching problem. However, this team is still run by the veteran players, and look at players most commonly flagged for the personal foul penalties. It is the veterans. I am very interested to see what direction the Ravens go this offseason with a number of their veterans. Head Coach John Harbaugh will not have real control of this team until players like Ray Lewis, Ed Reed, and Anquan Boldin are no longer on the roster. The Ravens are going to be tight against the salary cap again this offseason and these players could offer some much needed space.
Regardless, though, it is ultimately the head coach's responsibility to control his players. The Ravens need more discipline and Harbaugh has to assert more control. Unnecessary penalties are costly during the regular season and even more in the postseason.
Richard in Dallas: Except for Christian Ponder, I'd take all the other playoff quarterbacks (including all three rookies) instead of Joe Flacco. What does that say about the future Super Bowl hopes (and contract for Flacco) of the Ravens?
Mike Preston: Richard, I have a hard time arguing with you on this point. Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, and Aaron Rodgers are elite. Matt Ryan is trying to get to that level but is still clearly a step behind by not having won a playoff game. Andrew Luck, Andy Dalton, Robert Griffin III, Russell Wilson, and Colin Kaepernick are still young and have more developing to do.
That leaves Matt Schaub and Flacco. The book is out on these two and you have real questions as to if they can carry a team through the playoffs to a Super Bowl title this year. A season ago, Flacco played well enough in the postseason to get to The Show, but not in 2012.
At least Minnesota has Adrian Peterson...
David Joyce: I would like to see the Ravens include Tyrod Taylor in certain packages. Joe Flacco has struggled at times when the Ravens need short yardage for a first down. Let Tyrod be the element of surprise. In an obvious running situation he could pass to a tight end or have the option to run
Mike Preston: David, I might try the new wrinkle against Indianapolis this week because the Colts can't stop the run, but in general, you do not take your quarterback off of the field. Look at the mess that the New York Jets became with the Tim Tebow situation. They ruined Mark Sanchez this season by yanking him off the field to put in Tebow. Taylor is a good athlete but he is not an NFL level quarterback. The Ravens need to address the backup quarterback position this offseason with someone like Mark Bulger again.
LordBern: Is it time to draft a decent second-string quarterback and groom him behind Flacco? If Flacco had gone down early in the season, I think the entire season would have been a wash with Taylor as QB. So many teams have had second-string QBs step up and do well as fill-in starters. Is it time to plan for that contingency with Flacco getting older?
Mike Preston: As discussed in the previous question, I believe that this team needs a veteran behind Flacco. The Ravens are far too veteran heavy to have to deal with a rookie quarterback who would be a late round draft pick if Flacco got injured. Also, the Ravens need to address depth issues at linebacker, offensive line, and defensive line late in the draft this offseason.
Calvin from Tucson: Sunday's game proved that Michael Oher is terrible at both tackle spots, and I'm still scratching my head trying to figure out why we picked up a washed-up Bobbie Williams from the Bengals. What is it going to take to make Ozzie Newsome see that he must address the O-line in the upcoming draft?
Mike Preston: Calvin, do you read the Question and Answer section every week? WASH, RINSE, REPEAT.
Herb in Jacksonville: Hey Mike, love your work. You really tell it like it is. Do the Ravens have what it takes to beat Indy this week?
Mike Preston: The Ravens will be at home where they play much better. They have a chance to beat the Colts this week but it will be tough. The Colts have a good pass rush which will give this offensive line a lot of trouble. The Ravens will need to be successful early in running the ball and harassing quarterback Andrew Luck to cause a turnover or two.
If this game is close in the fourth quarter, I will be very nervous for the Ravens. I can honestly say the Colts have gotten much better during the season. I can't say that about the Ravens.
Coach: You play the game to win, not go into the playoffs 1-4 in the last five games. I've been a Ravens fan a long time now and this collapse at the end has got me heading for the border. As long as John Harbaugh is the coach, I will never watch the Ravens again. I was a season ticket holder the past seven years but will forgo my love for purple pride. I will say it again – pride!!
Mike Preston: This was a business decision since the Ravens could not improve their playoff position to get an actual week off. So Harbaugh did the best he could for a roster that is veteran heavy and depleted by injuries. That being said, don't forget to leave the Kool-Aid cup in the dishwasher and the decoder ring at the door.
JJ from Colonial Beach, VA: Hey Mike, I understand that the Ravens were resting starters, but could moving Oher to the right and McKinnie to the left be an experiment or practice run before the playoffs? How would you rate McKinnie's performance?
Mike Preston: JJ, as previously discussed, this should have been done 16 games ago. However, it is too late in the season now. McKinnie looked rusty after being stuck in Harbaugh's doghouse all season. He got beat a couple of times for sacks but he looked as if he was the only lineman trying to get to the second level on running plays. I would be surprised if you saw McKinnie starting next week.