Baltimore Sun columnist Mike Preston will answer fans’ questions throughout the Ravens season. Coming off Baltimore’s 20-10 win over the Los Angeles Chargers in Week 12, plenty of questions remain heading into their bye week.
Here’s Preston’s take:
(Editor’s note: Questions have been edited for length and clarity.)
Justin Tucker is having one of his worst seasons since 2015. You can see it in his eyes and demeanor when he goes to kick. It doesn’t help that he has had a number of kicks blocked. What do you think the special teams coaches need to do to help him get his head back in the game? — Adam PanareseI
I don’t have a problem with Tucker. Missed blocking assignments are to blame, and distance is another factor. One attempt was from about 55 yards, and a lot of those get blocked because there has to be a low trajectory on the kick to get the necessary distance. If Tucker misses a field goal attempt every now and then, I have no problem with it. It just shows he is human.
But right now, he is still the best kicker in the game and a lot of teams in the NFL would like to have him on the roster. If the Ravens need a field goal in crunch time, Tucker is the guy I want lining up to kick.
Through the first 12 games watching the offense, feels like Todd Monken is still tinkering with things. With the bye, and only five games left when they come back, do you think he will use this downtime to streamline the offense and narrow the focus of what they do in order to maximize results? Thanks. — Paul in Orlando
Ravens coach John Harbaugh has talked about self-scouting during the bye week and it won’t change this season. Monken has had the entire offseason and 12 games to “tinker” with the offense, and by now he knows what are the strengths and weaknesses of this team. Regardless, the game plan for each week is also determined by the opposing team’s strengths and weaknesses. So, each week you’re probably going to see some new wrinkles, and some of that will be built around the speed of running back Keaton Mitchell and receiver Zay Flowers. The Ravens currently use three running backs, and they need to keep Mitchell fresh. Remember, the rookies haven’t had much of a break after their final season in college.
I wouldn’t say Monken is streamlining as much as getting the proper matchups with personnel for each team. I would just like to see the Ravens improve at countering moves after the opposing teams make adjustments at halftime. The Ravens usually start strong but are slow to finish. Some of it is by design when they try to close out the game with a strong running attack, but they’ve also struggled when opponents make corrections. They need to be better at the chess match.
Is Lamar Jackson a rookie? We often hear on broadcasts about Lamar’s maturation, his still “learning” how to play quarterback in the NFL, etc. We never hear those things about Burrow, Herbert, Allen, Lawrence, or even Goff; all (except Goff) were drafted during the same draft or just one year after Lamar. The fact is Lamar is a veteran of six years, and I wonder WHY there remains this narrative of “he’s still learning.” With the success he’s had and as a veteran player, why aren’t writers, analysts and fans more focused on what Lamar is and what he brings rather than what he still doesn’t do and needs to be? And do you believe a Super Bowl win really ends this narrative? — Marty Domres
Marty, I usually don’t pay much attention to TV commentators because they love to hype these players up to the point of ridiculousness. It’s become downright silly at times. They might be saying Jackson is still “learning” the offense because he has a new offensive coordinator this season. Who knows with these guys?
By now, we all know Jackson’s strengths (running the ball, quick decision-making, good accuracy on short to intermediate passes) and weaknesses (lack of accuracy throwing the deep ball and outside the numbers, slow in reading defenses, struggles staying inside the pocket). He has a great win-loss record and impressive stats, but I put him in the same class as Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott. They need to win in the postseason and go deep into the playoffs. The NFL has become a league of average teams. It’s good to have all these wins against lesser talented teams, but what happens in the postseason when teams are close or near equal strength? Jackson realizes this.
All the accolades are great but all players, especially quarterbacks, want to win a Super Bowl. Ask former Miami Dolphins quarterback Dan Marino. He is in the Hall of Fame and still holds several passing records, but he didn’t win a Super Bowl in his 17 seasons in the league. The Lombardi Trophy cements a legacy.
Trent Dilfer wasn’t a great quarterback, but he will be remembered in Baltimore as the starter of the 2000 Super Bowl team.
It is good to see Lamar give himself up while running, avoiding hits by the defenders. But is there any way for anyone to teach him how to slide? When he falls down, he looks very awkward, having his arms, shoulders and legs make hard contact with the ground. And are you concerned about the future of Mark Andrews? Ronnie Stanley has never been the same since his ankle injury several years ago. — Robert
Sorry Robert, Jackson still doesn’t give himself up easily. He is better at it now than in previous years, but he needs to improve there before he suffers another serious injury. As for sliding, we can’t forget former Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco, who didn’t know how to slide either. Since the Orioles had success this season, maybe Harbaugh should have them come over for a training session or two.
As for Andrews, coming back from an injury is always a concern, but he has a strong work ethic. I mentioned this earlier in the year, but the only other Raven I’ve seen work harder in practice than Andrews is former middle linebacker Ray Lewis. It’s that attitude that will drive him to return, and then we’ll be able to see whether he has lost a step once he starts practicing on a regular basis.
What’s the biggest offseason priority? — Jemar Mills
Right now, it has to be finding a young, quality offensive tackle, preferably on the left side. I would also start looking at outside linebackers, even though David Ojabo and Odafe Oweh are young players. Neither has played up to expectations. While Kyle Van Noy and Jadeveon Clowney have played well, Van Noy is 33 years old and Clowney is 31. The Ravens need some younger players, preferably one or two who can become dominant pass rushers.
Is Ronnie Stanley ever going to be the same? — @GregCampbe8629
I’ve mentioned it before and I’ll say it again: Stanley has had several operations on his ankle and it limits his ability to plant and push, especially in pass protection. He can be effective but will never be the dominant player he was before the 2020 injury. Stanley is a professional and he knows that. There have been reports that he has struggled through a knee injury and rushed to return and play against the Chargers. Maybe that’s true, and at least he wants to get back on the field. But his best days are behind him and the Ravens need to determine if he can play well enough in the future to continue protecting Jackson’s blind side. I would say no at this point.
Have a question for Mike Preston? Email firstname.lastname@example.org with “Ravens mailbag” in the subject line and it could be answered in The Baltimore Sun.