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Ravens Q&A with Mike Preston

Ravens Q&A with Mike Preston
Ravens wide receiver Torrey Smith. (Lloyd Fox, Baltimore Sun)

Baltimore Sun columnist Mike Preston answers readers' questions about the team's win over the Tennessee Titans, the bye week and more.

Wow, Justin Forsett just keeps surpassing my expectations. He has now established career highs in a lot of categories. Is there any concern that he might burn out as we head into the second half of the season? -- John M., Canton

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John, I believe that Forsett will be able to hold up through the season because he is a veteran.  He knows that the season is a marathon. The Ravens also are helping him by sprinkling in Bernard Pierce and Lorenzo Taliaferro as well. As long as that continues, Forsett and the rest of the running backs should continue to be productive.

What adjustments has Torrey Smith made in recent weeks? He was drawing a lot of pass interference penalties early in the season, but he wasn't involved in the offense. Now, he's playing well each week. Was it just a matter of getting up to speed with Gary Kubiak's offense? -- Ron A., Westminster

Ron, I am not exactly sure that I agree with you. Smith has been involved in the offense all season and just because he scores a couple touchdowns does not mean that he is playing well.  Let us be honest here, he is averaging 2.7 catches and 44.6 yards per game. That is hardly productive for an alleged No. 1 receiver. Smith needs to work on his route running, his hands, and his desire. It is far to often that you see him getting boxed out by a cornerback or not running through a complete route during games. While the pass interference penalties are nice, it would be better to see him actually catching the ball.

It seemed like the Ravens' new-look secondary played well Sunday. I saw that you gave them a C+ in your weekly grades. And admittedly, they were playing against a rookie quarterback. But do you think they'll be able to keep it together for the rest of the season? -- Tim J., Perry Hall

Tim, the pass rush was terrible in the first quarter against the Titans, which resulted in the secondary looking terrible. The pass rush improved for the last three quarters, which resulted in the secondary looking serviceable. So to answer your question, if the pass rush is consistent, the secondary will be serviceable. You should be rooting for outside linebackers Terrell Suggs and Elvis Dumervil to be very productive in the final six games of the season.

How does Dean Pees compare to the Ravens' previous five defensive coordinators? Marvin Lewis and Rex Ryan used to get lots of coverage about their coaching genius as their defenses had such disruptive success and dominating, innovative identities. Lately, especially since Ray Lewis retired and the other superstars have been getting old, the defense hasn't been nearly as disruptive and doesn't really have the clear identity anymore. -- Steve G.

I think Dean Pees compares very well to the previous defensive coordinators that the Ravens have had. Marvin Lewis and Rex Ryan had players like Ray Lewis, Ed Reed, Terrell Suggs, Haloti Ngata, and Peter Boulware in their primes. Currently, Pees has an older Suggs and Ngata. C.J. Mosley could develop into something special, but it is too early to make any real predictions.

There is one other thing to consider when comparing defensive players and coaches of the past to players and coaches of today. Today's NFL does not allow the defenders to hit. Turn on an NFL highlight film, and you will be players like Dick Butkus, Dick "Night Train" Lane, and "Mean" Joe Greene absolutely demolishing offensive players. Penalty flags would have been worn out after a quarter if those guys played today how they played back then. It's so hard to say goodbye to yesterday.

The secondary obviously will need some retooling in the offseason either in the draft or free agency (or both). Should the Ravens consider moving Lardarius Webb to free safety or keep him at cornerback? -- Greg W.

The Ravens should consider how to make Webb's contract more friendly to the team so that the secondary can be improved. The Ravens have to look at paying Jimmy Smith, figuring out how to make Matt Elam a better player, and getting a solid nickel back. That is a lot of work for just one unit.

I was hoping Timmy Jernigan and Pernell McPhee would develop this year and improve our pass rush. McPhee has seemed to disappear lately, and Jernigan has been hurt but had a solid game Sunday. What is your assessment of these two players? -- John D.

It is really early to assess Jernigan, especially with the injuries, but you have to like the flashes that have been seen so far. He is solid against the run and is developing some pass rush abilities at the NFL. An offseason in the weight room will really help.

As for McPhee, he must become more consistent. He has a play or two each game that really makes you pay attention, and then he fades into the background. If he wants to continue on with the Ravens, he must show up throughout the game.

Do we have any receivers with some shake-and-bake moves? They all look like straight-line, one-cut receivers. The offensive skill guys have no wiggle to me, and Steve Smith looks old. -- Corey C.

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Corey, you are correct, the receivers on this team are straight-line players. If they get bumped off their route, it is completely debilitating to them. Steve Smith is the only receiver with any fight to him.

If you had to pick the biggest concern facing the Ravens as they head into the bye week, what would it be? -- Ed T., Columbia

Ed, I think that consistency is the biggest concern for the Ravens. You really do not know which team will show up on any given week. There is Good Joe and Bad Joe at quarterback. There is a good pass rush and then no pass rush. There is a running game and then the Ravens forget that they have running backs on the roster. Just be consistent, preferably on the good side.

With the Bengals and the Steelers suffering disappointing losses in Week 10, it seems like no one wants to step up and win the AFC North. It's a battle like it is most years, but all four teams are alive this season. Who do you think will stand atop the division when it's all said and done? -- Dave M.

Dave, get a dart board, put the four logos on the dart board, put on a blind fold, throw the dart at the dart board, and let me know which logo you hit, that is my pick. I can't believe I am typing this, and God forgive me, but at the moment, the Browns do look like the best team.

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