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Ravens have a lot of problems, but secondary is biggest

Ravens Insider Mike Preston talks about the poor play of the Ravens secondary and the possiblity of them going 0-4 to start the season. (Kevin Richardson/Baltimore Sun video)

Almost to a player, the Ravens said they had to move forward and put Sunday's 28-24 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals behind them.

I have already moved on and circled the dates of April 28-30, the days of the 2016 NFL draft in Chicago. Maybe then the Ravens will draft a quality cornerback like Florida State's Jalen Ramsey or Florida's Vernon Hargreaves.

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It's still too early to write off the 2015 season, but the odds of the Ravens making the playoffs are overwhelmingly stacked against them. At this point, the Cleveland Browns and Tampa Bay Buccaneers have a better chance.

Is this a nightmare or what?

After another wild, exciting and frustrating loss Sunday, there is a laundry list of things wrong with the Ravens. They can't run the ball. Their defense can't get off the field on third down. They aren't consistent on either offense or defense except for the penalties (13 for 116 yards) and they lack playmakers, especially late in the game.

Their most glaring weakness is the secondary. Again.

The Bengals scored 14 fourth-quarter points to pull off the victory, and the Ravens had no answer for Cincinnati receiver A.J. Green, who scored on receptions of 80 and seven yards, the last one the game-winner with 2:10left.

Ravens cornerback Jimmy Smith, thought of as a possible Pro Bowl player before the start of the season, was victimized most by Green, who had 10 receptions for 227 yards. But fellow cornerbacks Kyle Arrington and Rashaan Melvin were toasted a lot, too. Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton lit up the Ravens secondary for 383 passing yards and the Ravens were so confused afterward they still didn't know what coverages they were in at certain moments.

At least Melvin held, tackled or mugged receivers instead of allowing them to catch the ball.

"It seems to be a regular occurrence with him," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said of Green. "One of these days, we'll figure out how to cover A.J. Green. It'd be nice if we did that one time before he retires. They re-signed him, didn't they? So, he's going to be around a while. We better figure it out."

Ravens coach John Harbaugh was sour after the game, displaying the same attitude he had midway through training camp. He probably got his first glimpse of what was coming then. He saw the future.

So do I. That's why the Ravens will take a cornerback like Virginia Tech's Kendall Fuller. The first-round selection is a no-brainer now.

Smith has lost his confidence. He is playing like he did two years ago, when he was afraid to be physical with receivers because he feared getting beat. Arrington didn't get his hands on Green to change his route on that 80 yard reception, either. Apparently, the Ravens were supposed to be in zone, but some of them thought it was man-to-man coverage.

Oops. Those kind of things happen to bad teams.

The Bengals might be 3-0, but they aren't unbeatbale. In fact, they gave the Ravens opportunities to win with some questionable play calling, poor clock management and Dalton's big fumble midway through the fourth period, but the Ravens couldn't hold two leads in the quarter.

Why?

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It's not just because of the lack of playmakers, but a lack of fundamentals, as well. A year ago, they had a running game but they haven't had a dominating performance this year.

The Ravens had only 36 yards on 18 carries Sunday. Worst of all, they couldn't pick up yardage in the first half, when the Bengals were playing two-deep or Cover 2 with their safeties.

"Early on in the game, I mean, really the whole game, these guys played us in a two-high shell and played pretty conservative defense, and what that does is it says 'OK, let's run the ball and try to get them out of that stuff," Flacco said. "If you can do that and get them out of it, then you can start getting some of your play-action plays on first and second down and getting some chunks."

It never happened. Flacco also occasionally struggled with accuracy, and he really has no other weapon except for veteran receiver Steve Smith Sr., who could possibly be exhausted by midseason if he continues his present pace.

Unlike last year, running back Justin Forsett seldom breaks a tackle one-on-one and except for guards Kelechi Osemele and Marshal Yanda, the play on the offensive line has been inconsistent.

On defense, the Ravens allowed the Bengals to convert on 8 of 15 third downs and there was never consistent pressure on Dalton. Some of those problems can be attributed to schemes and individual performances, but the penalties are Harbaugh's responsibility.

"It's everything," he said. "You take responsibility across the board. I don't question the heart and the competitiveness. I do question the execution at times. I do question the penalties. I do question letting them run down the field two or three times in the fourth quarter."

When you have that many questions, it means that you're not a good football team. The Ravens have the right attitude. This is not Major League Baseball, where a team can bring up minor-league prospects.

All they can do is work and look ahead. I have adopted the same philosophy. The April draft can't get here fast enough. Maybe then, the Ravens can find some good cornerbacks.

That would solve one problem, but the Ravens have a lot of others. They have earned the 0-3 start.

twitter.com/MikePrestonSun

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