Ravens Q&A with Mike Preston

Is John Harbaugh getting the most out of the Ravens' roster? Mike Preston answers questions from readers.

Baltimore Sun columnist Mike Preston answers readers' questions about the Ravens' failure to stop the Houston Texans' J.J. Watt, John Harbaugh's coaching style, Gary Kubiak and more.

I would like to know which genius coach came up with the plan to stop J.J. Watt? Not double-team him? And then when the rookie comes in, leave him on an island to block Watt all by himself? Really, a coach got paid money for this? -- Mike V.

Mike, the scheme to stop J.J. Watt should be burned. He is the best defensive player in the NFL this year and probably has been the best defensive player, or at least in the top three, for the last few years. I do not know how you expect any of the Ravens offensive linemen to block him one-on-one. Last time I looked, Jonathan Ogden was in the Hall of Fame, not on the Ravens' roster. I saw the Ravens double-team him. I saw them run a spread offense at times to open up the Houston defense. In football, if their front five is beating your front five, then you are not going to win regardless of the scheme.

Is it time to start asking some serious questions as to whether coach John Harbaugh is getting the most out of the Ravens' roster? How do you explain a team that is fighting for a playoff position coming out of the gate so poorly in the last three games (Miami, Jacksonville and Houston)? -- Don T., Ottawa, Canada

Don, I think that Harbaugh is getting everything he can out of the Ravens' roster at the moment. The secondary is currently manned by the Keystone Cops, the running game is suffering because of injuries to Justin Forsett and Lorenzo Taliaferro, and the receiving corps is average at best. I am very surprised the Ravens have won nine games to this point, but they have feasted on teams in the AFC South and the NFC South. If they get the 10th win and don’t make the playoffs, that is really an overachieving season for this group. Then when you factor in all of the injuries, it actually shows very well for Harbaugh and his staff getting the most out of this team. Harbaugh, though, has to wonder why his team hasn't played with great intensity the past two weeks.

Just this past week, you praised Gary Kubiak and Joe Flacco for such great improvement from last year, and said the Ravens should sign Kubiak at all costs. After Sunday’s game, do you still feel this way? – Baltimore Fan in Florida

Yes, the Ravens should make every attempt to keep Kubiak and his staff together. Think about all of the offensive coordinators that the Ravens have had, then tell me which one is better than Kubiak. I’ll wait.

I'm still waiting ...

Mike, why did the Ravens go for a two-point conversion after their late touchdown? It didn’t make sense to me or anyone I was with. They should have kicked the extra point to get it within eight points. It didn’t matter in the end, of course, but John Harbaugh would have had to answer some questions if the game came down to that. – Ed, Towson

I do not get the outcry over the two-point conversion attempt with that touchdown. The Ravens would have had to have gone for two eventually. Now if you want to complain about the decision to have Flacco run back to the 14-yard line when they were only two yards away from the end zone, we can have a discussion.

Do you think other teams have found the Ravens’ weakness -- place seven to nine players in the box to rush and stop the run and make Joe Flacco beat them? -- Brenda H.

Brenda, that will be the plan for every team playing the Ravens for a while. Flacco does not have the ability to carry this team, as discussed numerous times, so teams want him to have to win games. Flacco looked his best this year, and every previous year, when the running game was chewing up yards and clock. The Ravens had no running game against the Texans.

When it's obvious that the running game not working, why continue -- especially on first down -- to call a running play? -- Charlie S.

Charlie, the Ravens needed to keep running so the Texans would not hit Flacco on every play. The offensive linemen should apologize to Flacco for the beating he took this past week. That was ugly. Also, the Texans were running a no-huddle offense. The Ravens had to use some time to give their defense a rest.

Mike, why have the Ravens had so many injuries in the defensive backfield, especially the knees and ankles? Could it be because of poor conditioning or our stadium turf? Why not put this question to the team's orthopedic specialists and/or trainers?  -- Harrison S.

Harrison, injuries happen on every surface. It is just the Ravens' season to have more than their fair share of injuries. A lot of teams, the Browns and the Texans, have had a bunch of injuries at the quarterback position. It just happens.

What would it take for John Harbaugh to bring in Tyrod Taylor to quarterback the team? If a QB rating of 0.0 at the end of the first half does not do it, it does not seem that anything short of Joe Flacco lying motionless on the field would. Is it that Harbaugh has no confidence in the abilities of Taylor? Or is it that Harbaugh lacks the ability to see that his quarterback is not going to get the job done in an important game? -- Chris H.

Chris, a motionless Flacco may still be better than Taylor. The Ravens have kicked the tires on several backup quarterbacks the past few offseasons, but the salary cap made them go cheap. Taylor is not an NFL-level quarterback. Think back a few seasons ago when everyone was clamoring for Troy Smith to quarterback the Ravens. Smith can’t even keep a job in the Canadian Football League.

Where do the Ravens go from here, assuming they do not make the playoffs? Do they need a major overhaul? -- Bob K.

Bob, as always, one more week before we start discussing the future. Maybe a Christmas miracle occurs and the Ravens make the playoffs.

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