Kyle Oland: Every week it is seems as if Ed Reed is missing tackles. Is this a product of his previous neck injuries and he is afraid to sustain another injury? Or is this a product of a current injury? I feel like his inability or unwillingness to make a tackle is hurting our defense. It is obvious Reed's best football is behind him and father time is catching up to Reed. Do you think the Ravens need to address Reed's successor this offseason, and if so, who are the potential replacements?
Mike Preston: If the Ravens had a better safety in coverage, the Ravens would consider replacing him, but neither Tom Zbikowski or Haruki Nakamura have the range, according to the Ravens. I think Nakamura could do the job, but the Ravens think otherwise. As for the shoulder and neck, it's clear Reed is losing the mental game with himself about tackling. It's apparent he fears getting injured again, and I really can't blame him. Hopefully, the Ravens address the issue before their first postseason game or at least get some assurances from Reed that he's OK. I assume the team will address their need in the offseason, either through the draft or free agency.
Richie in Dallas: Why can't/won't the Ravens sub for Ray Lewis on pure passing downs?
Mike Preston: Because he is Ray Lewis and this has become a sensitive issue with team chemistry. The Ravens have done just about everything possible to make sure everything is funneled into Lewis, where he doesn't have to do much in coverage. But opposing teams are starting to zone in on him. They will try to isolate him in coverage. The Ravens are rolling the dice by allowing him to stay on the field. Apparently, they don't think the reward is worth the risk of possibly hurting the chemistry of this team.
Dan from Kansas: Why do the Ravens' corners continue to play 8 yards off the ball? Wouldn't slowing the receivers down a bit throw off their timing and give our blitzers an extra second to get there?
Mike Preston: Actually Dan, the Ravens cornerbacks have been pretty aggressive throughout the season and have played a lot of press coverage. Against the Bengals, who have a very talented group of receivers, they didn't want anyone to get behind them and give up the big play. It was a good, sound strategy and it worked.
Scott in Huntersville N.C.: I have been complaining about special teams and Jerry Rosburg, and it was another terrible performance this week. I don't care what his IQ is, or how much John Harbaugh loves him -- his special teams do not perform. Time to move on after this season?
Mike Preston: I wouldn't say it's time to fire him, but the Ravens need to take a long look at their special teams and fix the problems. After speaking with former Ravens special teams coach Bennie Thompson and later with Brendon Ayanbadejo, both agreed that they'd like to see more veterans on those special teams units because they are more aggressive and play with more passion. They know that if they don't produce, they don't have jobs. With a lot of these younger players, they really don't want to play on special teams and are just waiting for their time on offense or defense where they think they will become stars. The number of missed tackles every week has become atrocious and the indecision on returns has become a major problem again.
Bob K.: Lee Evans arrived here with great expectations as the deep speed receiver that the Ravens have lacked. But he has done absolutely nothing this year. What is your take on his performance?
Mike Preston: It's tough learning a new offense, and even tougher when you miss extensive time because of an injury. I know receivers have to working on timing issues and chemistry with the quarterback, and that takes time. I was disappointed with the long pass he dropped Sunday against the Bengals and would say he has been a disappointment this season. But he is a pro and a quality person. He'll bounce back.
Robert: If you had a team and wanted to win right now, would you take Joe Flacco or Andy Dalton as your QB? Which player has the greatest upside, or is it too early to tell?
Mike Preston: I'd take either one. Every time the Ravens play a good young quarterback, this question is always asked. I like the situation Flacco is in now. He doesn't have to carry the team and the offense is centered around running back Ray Rice. If the Ravens need to come from behind, Flacco has a strong arm and enough weapons to make that happen. It's a great situation.
Dalton doesn't have Flacco's arm strength, but is more of a touch passer. He is definitely a better runner and has already shown that he can make big plays and bring a team back in games.
Upside? I think Flacco has hit the ceiling in Cam Cameron's offense. As far as Dalton, I haven't seen him play a lot this season but he looks like a winner. I don't know if he'll be elite, but there is a lot of potential there.
Ronald: With hands as good as his, combined with his speed and running ability, shouldn't Lardarius Webb occasionally be a wide receiver to complement Torrey Smith?
Mike Preston: No. Isn't that why the Ravens signed Evans? Isn't that why Anquan Boldin is on the roster? When you have two good tight ends like Dennis Pitta and Ed Dickson, why waste time trying to convert Webb to receiver?
By the way, tight ends coach Wade Harmon deserves some props for coming up with that two-tight-end offense against the Bengals. When Jamal Lewis was running the ball here in Baltimore, it was Harmon, offensive line coach Jim Colletto and running backs coach Matt Simon who came up with the blocking scheme. Harmon doesn't get a lot of credit, but he has had some pretty good tight ends here going back to Shannon Sharpe and Todd Heap.
Bryan in Pax River: Assuming the game in two weeks goes well, who would you rather face in a championship round -- an awful Patriots defense or a banged up Steelers team at home?
Mike Preston: I can't see Denver beating Pittsburgh with that offense. The best route for the Ravens would be for Pittsburgh to go into New England and let them beat the snot out of each other. The Steelers win and they have to come to Baltimore with a one-legged Ben Roethlisberger and no running game.Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times