Baltimore Sun columnist Mike Preston answers a selection of reader questions after the Ravens' 43-13 loss to the Houston Texans on Sunday.
Boyne: The defense looks to have lost its swagger, the way it did when Greg Mattison took over for Rex Ryan. Is the defense suffering due to the injuries and loss of players to free agency, or is this a matter of Dean Pees not being an effective coach?
Mike Preston: It seems like the Ravens have lost a defensive coordinator every year for about a decade going back to Marvin Lewis. Combined with the loss of key veterans and the usual aging process, it has finally taken its toll on the Ravens and they have to rebuild the defense. It might take a year or two, but the Ravens have to focus on rebuilding much like they did with the offense when they used first-round picks to select Ben Grubbs, Michael Oher and Joe Flacco. They also used a high pick to select Ray Rice. Everything in the NFL usually works in cycles, and now it's time for the Ravens to invest in defensive players.
Andy In Hagerstown: We are now into our bye week and our offense continues to befuddle. The Ravens and Joe Flacco are world beaters at home and can be downright brutal on the road. Some of the disparities in statistics are by far the starkest in the NFL. These would include Flacco's stats as well as more pedestrian stats like time of possession and scoring. What do John Harbaugh and Cam Cameron need to do to fix the systemic issues we seem to face when playing offense on the road?
Mike Preston: First of all, they have to know when to pull the plug on the passing game. When Flacco is having a bad game, they have to take the ball out of his hands and give it to Rice more. They have to get a better balance of run versus pass, and not give up on the run so quickly. Against quality defensive teams like the Texans or the Eagles, the Ravens have to be able to read and react quickly, especially the offensive line. The Ravens also have to find a way to beat man-to-man coverage against their receivers.
I think Flacco is a good quarterback and is having a pretty good season, but he doesn't play well enough on a weekly basis to carry the offense. At this point, the best option might be more Rice, less Flacco.
Brian from Silverdale, Wash.: Why did the OC give up on using Ray Rice in the first quarter of the game? I know they are 5-2 and are in first place, but this offense is so frustrating this year. They have no identity!
Mike Preston: The OC, also known as Cam Cameron, got away from the run too quickly. He has confidence in Flacco and wants to build the offense around him, but Flacco isn't that type of quarterback, like a Drew Brees or Peyton Manning. When Flacco is bad, he can take down his team. Judging from coach John Harbaugh's comments Monday, maybe the Ravens have learned that and will stick with Rice longer. A run-dominated offense could help the defense, which has struggled the past three games against both the run and pass.
Brian Williams in Burtonsville: I would like to know why the Ravens persist in using the bunch formation. I never see anything good come from it. I understand the concept; they just can't seem to execute it.
Mike Preston: If you can't pass block, you can munch, crunch or bunch, and it won't matter. The formation wasn't the problem Sunday. The Ravens couldn't pass block and Flacco had a poor day.
The coaches have said the defensive players are having trouble getting off blocks. Why are they not doing more stunts, twists, and other ways to confuse the offense? I would think more movement would hide where the defense is coming from and hide some of the issues the defense has.
Mike Preston: I saw stunts, movement and slants. I also saw the Ravens defensive linemen failing to get off blocks after engaging. We can talk about all the different strategies you want, but it comes down to winning one-on-one matchups. The Ravens failed to do that and also keep offensive linemen off their inside linebackers. Harbaugh has talked about making changes, and it might be time to insert some of the younger players like defensive linemen Bryan Hall and DeAngelo Tyson.
Steven in Randallstown: Terrence Cody just seems like a big body to me. No power. No strength. No tenacity ... Just pudding. 350 pounds of diet pudding. He was getting blown off of the ball. Is Cody really that weak or it is just a technique problem? I guess this question is also for the entire D-line except Haloti Ngata.