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Ravens Q&A with Mike Preston

Baltimore Sun columnist Mike Preston answers a selection of reader questions about the Ravens' 30-27 win over the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday.

Jerrold: The Ravens' offense and Joe Flacco seem to operate more efficiently when they play with a sense of urgency, which was evident in their come-from-behind victory in the second half Sunday using the "no huddle" offense almost exclusively. The question is, why do they wait until they "need" a sense of urgency to play with one?

Mike Preston: Jerrold, that's the question of the week. Instead of the no-huddle the Ravens might need a psychologist. The Ravens can't use the no-huddle or operate out of the shotgun 100 percent of the time, but I would use it like Ted Marchibroda did when he was coach. When the Ravens couldn't get their offense in gear, Marchibroda would fire up the no-huddle to get the juices flowing again. He didn't care if he was on the road or at home. If his offense needed a jump start, Marchibroda would go no-huddle. But it was more than just the no-huddle Sunday. The Ravens used a lot of short passing in the second half, and that helped slow the Cardinals pass rush, along with Flacco's short drop back and quick release. Because the offensive line has struggled so far this season, we might see more short passing in the future. The Ravens have been looking for something to build on, and maybe they have found it.

HB, Owings Mills: I know John Harbaugh likes to give his players a longer leash to say what's on their minds and be loose on the field, and I think the players appreciate it. Recently, however, that "emotion" has turned into some big taunting penalties and has hurt some potentially game-changing drives. If you are Harbaugh, do you address the taunting penalties with the team by saying, 'Let's play with aggression and passion but be smart out there.' Or do you just keep letting them go out and be themselves? It's frustrating to see third-down stops extended on defense and drives ended on offense because someone wants to act like Ric Flair.

Mike Preston: I love Ric Flair. Been to space mountain with the high-flying, limousine-driving Flair for many years.

I'm old school, and so are a lot of coaches. They really don't care for all the antics either, but they understand it's part of this generation. They have to defend some of these eggheads because they don't want to toss anybody under the bus. I thought Bernard Pollard had a great hit Sunday, but he didn't need to stand over the guy afterward. That's unprofessional. Once that happened, Harbaugh should have told his players to tone it down, because it was apparent these referees weren't going to stand for any more of it. I really don't know why they flagged Ray Rice, but in that situation he should have been more careful because the officials had already nailed Pollard. I think the Ravens should scout the officials for these kind of calls, just as they do for officiating staffs who call a lot of holding or pass interference.

I would prefer for players, as Tom Matte often says, to "just take your butt back to the huddle." That won't happen, but after Sunday, Harbaugh has to warn his guys about the taunting. It would be a shame to lose a playoff game over such a silly matter.

Walker in Baltimore: Most of this season the offense has struggled against man [coverage], except for the second half of the Cardinals game. I remember last year when they ran a bunch of trips formations. Why don't they run that formation more? It's hard to cover in man coverage and it helps prevent teams from jamming our receivers.

Mike Preston: The Ravens have used the formation at times, but the bottom line is that they have a young receiving corps, and they'll get better getting off the line of scrimmage by spending more time in the weight room and continuing to practice. College teams have good weight programs, but they don't compare to the NFL. Rookies like Torrey Smith and LaQuan Williams are facing bigger and stronger players, and aren't used to seeing this type of coverage consistently. They'll get better with time.

Dave Joyce: One area that doesn't seem to get a lot of attention in the Ravens' performance of late is special teams. I was at the game versus the Jets and also [Sunday] versus the Cardinals. In both games touchdowns were scored by the Jets and Cardinals on kickoff returns. That should be a concern to the Ravens. What are they going to do to plug this weakness? A touchdown on a kickoff a return is just as bad as poor pass protection.

Mike Preston: Special teams stunk up the field Sunday, but not just in coverage. They also had several stupid penalties and got very little out of the return game. As far as coverage, the Ravens just have to tackle better. They aren't out of position or blowing lane assignments. They just have to tackle better or find others who can.

Paige: Why does a player the caliber of Ed Reed take stupid risks on punt returns and why does Coach Harbaugh continue to tolerate this? Sunday's diving on the ball about to be downed with four Cardinals surrounding him seemed particularly foolhardy.

Mike Preston: Because he is Ed Reed.

Why does he freelance in the secondary at times? Because he is Ed Reed.

Why does he miss practice time in training camp? Because he is Ed Reed.

Why does he keep lateraling the ball after an interception? Because he is Ed Reed.

Why is he going to the Hall of Fame? Because he is Ed Reed.

Neither the Ravens nor Ed Reed can control Ed Reed's impulsive nature.

Greg: Jimmy Smith looked good during the times he was in against the Cardinals. Can we expect him to see a bigger role against the Steelers?

Mike Preston: It depends on Ed Reed.

Oh, just joking.

Smith has played well on special teams and got more time on the regular defense last week. It's only a matter of time before he gets back in the starting lineup. No. 1, he is going to be a really good player, and No. 2, he was the Ravens' top pick in last April's draft. He has to play. It's the unwritten law of the NFL.

Gene D.: Are there any updates on the status of Ben Grubbs? If he is unable to return, what do you see as an answer for our struggling offensive line? Thank you for your time.

Mike Preston: There is no time frame for Grubbs' return, and the Ravens may have found a way to take some of the burden off the offensive line with the short passing game. Until Grubbs returns, though, there is going to be trouble on the left side. I was hoping Bryant McKinnie would improve doing the season at left tackle, but I haven't seen much improvement from earlier in the year. Right tackle Michael Oher played well against the Cardinals last week, and right guard Marshal Yanda has been superb the past two games.

If this offensive line can pass-protect better and Flacco gets in a groove, they could easily be in the Super Bowl. But as of right now, that's only a dream.

43 fan: Can you explain to me why Harbaugh does not utilize Haruki Nakamura more? For so many weeks there were defensive players injured, and Nakamura still didn't receive adequate playing time. It seems like his talent and hard work are wasted on this team.

Mike Preston: I would have started Nakamura earlier this season because I thought he was the best safety in camp next to Reed. But in the last two weeks, Pollard has been the smasher this defense hasn't had since Eric Turner and Stevon Moore played here in the mid-1990s. Nakamura, though, is still one of the better tacklers on the team and a good special teams performer. They have to get this guy on the field more.

Joyce: Why has Sergio Kindle disappeared? Is it work ethic, lingering doubts about his injury or is he just not good enough?

Mike Preston: You hit all three areas directly on the head.

Rick in Falls Church, Va.: I always enjoy reading your game grades on the Ravens' performance. How about adding an extra category for grading the officials' performance? After all, their calls are as crucial to the outcome as the players.

Mike Preston: In the last two Ravens games, the officiating has been pretty poor. To give them an F would be a compliment.

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