Baltimore Sun columnist Mike Preston answers readers' questions on the Ravens' win over the Cleveland Browns and other topics about the team.
Going forward, to what extent does potentially losing Dennis Pitta for the year impact the offense? Does the offense have playmakers who can step in and lessen Pitta's absence? Does his injury appear to be career-ending? -- Craig, Winchester, Va.
Craig, you have to be nervous about the loss of tight end Dennis Pitta.
Pitta was supposed to be the replacement for Anquan Boldin last year, and the offense clearly suffered all of last season without him. This season needs to be different. Hopefully for the Ravens, wide receiver Steve Smith and tight end Owen Daniels can step up and pick up the slack. If not, you have to look toward Torrey Smith and Jacoby Jones, but neither has ever shown the talent to be a true No. 1 option in an offense.
I do not know if this injury is career-ending, but I have heard comparisons to Bo Jackson and Priest Holmes. Those were different circumstances though.
What is it with the Ravens' short-yardage offense? I watch other teams (college and NFL) and if they have first-and-goal from the 3, a touchdown is the usual result. Third-and-1 or fourth-and-1, it seems that the Ravens are usually unsuccessful. And this has been going on for years, first with Cam Cameron, then Jim Caldwell, and now Gary Kubiak. If the offensive line cannot block for a 1- or 2-yard run, why run? Other teams use rollouts, quick passes, and other plays to combat the stacked defensive line. Does it have anything to do with Joe Flacco's lack of mobility? -- Bob K.
Bob, short-yardage situations are about who wants it more. The offensive line needs to get a better push. You are absolutely correct, this has been a long-term problem, and it needs to be fixed.
With all the holes in our secondary, why is Dean Pees so reluctant to pressure the passer with more than a three- or four-man rush? -- Jerry B.
The problem with having more people rush the passer is that fewer people are in coverage. The secondary needs to get a map, again.
Why did the Ravens activate Lardarius Webb if he wasn't ready to play? -- Bob B.
Because Chykie Brown and Asa Jackson are not very good.
Matt Elam seems to be lost again at safety. Is there anybody to replace him? -- Brenda H.
Brenda, Elam needs to focus. There was talk last year of Elam being worried about not getting interceptions and that he was pressing to make plays. It appears that problem has raised its head again. He also needs to realize he is in the NFL and no longer at Florida. Just because the receiver falls down does not mean the play is over. Focus!
As for a replacement, maybe a free agent in the offseason or another draft pick next year.
Did Elvis Dumervil play Sunday? It didn't seem like it. -- Gary L.
Yes, he played, just don't check the stat sheet. You won't find him there.
With Lorenzo Taliaferro's strong game against the Browns, will he now have a bigger role in the offense even after Bernard Pierce returns to action? -- Carey P.
Carey, Taliaferro absolutely should have a bigger role in this offense. He plays better than Pierce. Pierce has shown flashes, but he has never reached the level of his rookie year.
Did they change the rule about coaches staying off the painted line on the side of the playing field? Is Kyle Shanahan so arrogant that he thought he could pull off that play with Johnny Manziel? After all, the Ravens have some familiarity with coaches encroaching on the side of the field. -- Mark A.
No, there has been no change in the rule about coaches being on the white part of the sideline. It just isn't enforced.
The Bengals look terrific. But they went to the playoffs the last three years and were one-and-done. Is it Andy Dalton? Is it Marvin Lewis? It looks like they'll win the division this year (they're the early favorites). Do you see the Browns making the playoffs this year? They've certainly improved a lot. Do you think it helps and hurts the Ravens by being in such a tough division by having strong opponents six games each year? -- LordBern
The Bengals are a young team. Young teams have a tendency to lose in the playoffs. I think you can see the development of the Bengals, and that is a credit to coach Marvin Lewis.
As for quarterback Andy Dalton, everything you hear about him, you heard about Flacco until he won a Super Bowl. Can Dalton win a Super Bowl? Sure, you just won't win one because of him. Sound familiar?
As for the Browns, no, they will not go to the playoffs. They invent new ways to lose.