Each week, Baltimore Sun columnist Mike Preston will answer questions from readers about the Ravens. You can submit questions during every game to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Here are this week's questions:
How come the Ravens can't get any push off the line? There aren't any holes to run through. That performance in Buffalo was embarrassing. -- Eldon D.
Embarrassing is an understatement. The line is not run blocking at all and the pass blocking is not any better. Center Gino Gradkowski looks like he can not handle the big bodies in the middle and is having trouble with the line calls. Guards Marshal Yanda and Kelechi Osemele are not mauling like they are capable, and tackles Bryant McKinnie and Michael Oher look slow. This group needs to get its act together quickly. They need to make run blocking a personal challenge, which it is.
Mike, have the coaches lost their minds? 50 passes vs. only nine rushes in this game? Even Cam Cameron was never this imbalanced. Everyone knows you have to stick with the run to reap its rewards. And this against the worst rush defense in the league. Horrible game plan by John Harbaugh and Jim Caldwell. My question is: what is the role of Juan Castillo? Is he the run game coordinator or run game obliterator? Since this guy joined, we've looked nothing short of lost up front. Same guys, different schemes? Is this part of the problem? -- Andrew, New York
Andrew, it is very possible there are too many chefs and only one very large, but confused kitchen. However, the Ravens have not been able to run the ball all season. Passing the ball, even though only slightly, is working better. Juan Castillo is really the offensive line coach, and he was a very good O-line coach in Philadelphia. It may just take time, but the Ravens don't have a lot of that between now and Sunday. To throw the football 30 straight times like the Ravens did against Buffalo is just stupid. Apparently, Jim Caldwell still thinks he has Peyton Manning at quarterback. Joe Flacco plays more like Eli.
Why did they kick a field goal with four minutes left? Why not go for the touchdown? If they don't get the TD, the Bills are pinned deep and the Ravens get the ball back in decent field position after a stop. -- Matthew W.
Matthew, the defense was not consistently stopping the Bills. The Ravens played the odds and lost. It was shocking the Ravens were in the game to even play the odds. Five turnovers usually translate into a blowout.
What was Harbaugh thinking with not using any timeouts at the end of the first half? It was as if he was just wanting to get off the field and into the locker room. But they were moving the ball. A field goal at least. Bad coaching? -- Bruce T.
How about just bad game? If the offense did not convert the third down, and let's be honest, it is likely they would not have converted, the Bills would have gotten the ball back.
How concerned should we be about Joe Flacco's recent play? Are his struggles more on him or the lack of weapons? -- Cam R., NH
We should be concerned because Flacco feels the need to squeeze the ball into such tight spaces. The batted balls aside, there were some very poor decisions. The lack of talent and subsequent injuries are not helping.
The first interception was forced into zone coverage with inside-out and underneath coverage. I have no idea what Flacco was thinking. The underthrow to Torrey Smith should have been thrown out of the back of the end zone to conserve the field-goal attempt (a valuable three points if you think about it) since he was under pressure and the DB was in the proper position. The pick on the crossing route on which Flacco says he did not see the Bills linebacker was just pathetic. The Ravens wear black helmets, the Bills wear white. Doesn't get much more simpler than that.
Don't want to get too "in the weeds" here, but I was not a fan of the ball over the middle to 5-foot-8 Ray Rice instead of taking advantage of 6-foot-5 Marlon Brown down on the goal line. Were you scratching your head over that choice as well? -- Rich, New York City
As with every other play, Flacco was under pressure and needed to get rid of the ball. I am not sure what he saw, but that was not the best throw. I agree, don't know why the Ravens are throwing to Rice in the back of the end zone. If you are going to throw to Rice, throw underneath or in the flat where he has some room. Yes, Rich, I scratched my head.
Watching on TV, it seems that Ravens defenders are "behind" the opponents' receivers, allowing them too many easy catches. Whereas, when we are on offense and Flacco is trying to complete passes, the opponent's defenders are sticking real tight with our receivers and are between the receiver and Flacco a lot of the time. Is this my imagination or is there something to this? Is this part of the "bend-but-don't-break" defensive philosophy? -- Gary L.
The Ravens were without their best cover cornerback in Lardarius Webb, and only Jimmy Smith can really play press coverage out of the rest of that unit. They are running a lot of zones with safeties that are either not used to starting or are rookies. There are going to be large holes in coverage for a while.
On the flip side, the receiving corps has one of three problems. Either they can't get separation (Brandon Stokley, Dallas Clark), they don't know how to get consistent separation (Marlon Brown), or they just aren't that good (Tandon Doss, Ed Dickson).
The Ravens run defense obviously was poor Sunday, but it hasn't been really dominant for the last few years. With characters like Haloti Ngata, Chris Canty, Marcus Spears, and Arthur Jones, runners should never make it to the second level. Why don't the Ravens play more 4-3 fronts to control the line of scrimmage and keep blockers off of Daryl Smith, allowing him to chase and tackle like he did for the Jaguars? -- Farris R., Detroit
The Ravens strength on defense is the linebackers, especially outside with Terrell Suggs, Courtney Upshaw and Elvis Dumervil, so getting those three on the field requires a 3-4 defense. That being said, the front three need to do a better job against the run. The Ravens have suffered a lot of injuries up front and haven't had a steady rotation yet this season.
How can the Ravens continue to justify a roster spot for Ed Dickson? The stats (two catches, six drops) literally say he is doing more harm than good. Wouldn't they be better off activating an extra cornerback or receiver? -- Brian, Philadelphia
I can't. Anything extra would be better at this point. Harbaugh criticized him openly Monday at the news conference. That was unusual, but also a sign that the Ravens have had enough of the dropped passes.
Has this team become the reincarnation of a Brian Billick team late in his tenure? It appears there's a lack of preparation, a lack of focus and a lack of urgency. How and when does someone's butt get kicked into gear? Perhaps Flacco needs to get some sleep (given the recent birth of his second child)? -- Mark S., New Market
I think this team is still finding itself. There are a lot of new faces and chemistry is going to take time. The group that won the Super Bowl had a core that had been together for a long time. The preparation is there, it is just not coming together as nicely as we are used to seeing on Sunday afternoons.