Happy Tuesday, Ravens Nation! I apologize for the mailbag not being written last week. There were absolutely no questions to answer, which means there was no reason to type an empty mailbag up. We would love to have more questions from you, the readers, and the information to send in questions will be at the bottom of this post. We have some mail to get to, so let's get started!
Q1: What's the answer on the TE front? There seems to be problem aplenty. ~ @chattycathyree
You are exactly right about that one. The tight end position has been absolutely horrible for the Ravens. Dallas Clark seems to be improving week-to-week, but Ed Dickson can't catch the ball to save his life.
Dickson was a large reason why at least one of the interceptions occurred on Sunday against the Bills. He would attempt to catch a ball, but they would be hit up into the air off of his hands, and land nicely into a man in a blue uniform. Dickson's struggles are immense, and Clark isn't doing much better. Dickson's drop that turned into an interception became his sixth drop of the year, and the Ravens aren't even through Week Five yet. The 2012 leader in drops (Saints' TE Jimmy Graham) only had 14 drops through 16 games. Dickson has almost half that number in just four games.
Great tight ends are hard to come by in the NFL, as you can see. There are only a handful of "great" tight ends in the league right now. Tony Gonzalez, Rob Gronkowski, Jimmy Graham, and Antonio Gates are some of the only true "great" tight ends that we see today. Dennis Pitta could also come on that list. Pitta was the main man for the Super Bowl M.V.P. Joe Flacco, and without him, he seems a little lost.
With Dennis Pitta being gone, it looks like the Ravens are just going to have to make lemonade out of the lemons that they have. Although many fans won't like it, Baltimore is just going to have to accept Dickson and Clark, at least until Pitta can come back. If the tight end position doesn't improve, the Ravens' offense will continue to look bad. It will be interesting to see how well the tight end corps evolves over the remainder of the season.
Q2: What have we found out about Lardarius' leg? ~ @chattycathyree
According to BaltimoreRavens.com, top CB Lardarius Webb is expected to play on Sunday against the Dolphins. He suffered a thigh injury in Sunday's loss versus the Bills, but Harbaugh said on Monday that he and WR Marlon Brown both "looked good" at practice.
This is a relief for many Ravens' fans, since Webb missed most of last year with a torn ACL. It would not be ideal for the Ravens to lose him again this season. Good thing he is not expected to miss a game at all.
Q3: Is Josh Bynes the answer at LB? ~ @Aka_Young_Gun
Josh Bynes is currently one of two starting ILB's, his opposite being LB Daryl Smith. These two have played well, but is Bynes really the way to go?
Arthur Brown is looking to return to practicing this week after missing the last two games, and he is currently the backup to Bynes. Brown is a rookie with a two-game experience, while Josh Bynes is a third-year guy with fifteen games of experience. He has also racked up 27 tackles in four games, third most on the team. Brown has one tackle and 0.5 sacks in two games this season, that's it.
Bynes isn't doing badly, and with the way this defense is playing, I imagine that Bynes will continue to be one of the two starting ILB's, unless he gets hurt or starts declining in production.
Q4: Is Jimmy Smith better than Corey Graham? ~ @Aka_Young_Gun
This is a toss-up. Basically it is like having six in one hand and half a dozen in the other, as they say. Smith and Graham have both been pretty bad this year, but I believe that Graham has been even worse.
Jimmy Smith may not be able to cover very well, but I still enjoy the way he plays. As for Graham, he is the only CB on the Ravens that has an interception so far this season.
This question is very hard to answer, since they are both playing below average, and worse than they did last season. I'm sorry for not being able to answer the question fully, but it is just a toss up. You could make a case for Smith being better than Graham, and you could make a case for Graham being better than Smith.
Q5: How much is Coach Harbaugh at fault for these performances? ~ @Aka_Young_Gun
Something I never do is blame the coach for a bad game played by any team. The players are the ones that throw interceptions. The players are the ones on the field. The players are the ones that miss tackles. The players are the ones that fumble. The players are the ones that can't get into the end zone. My point is, the coach cannot dictate anything that happens on the field. He can only tell/show the players how to play the best game, while they are the ones that have to go out and do it.
The last game against the Bills is the only game that I might put some blame on the coaches, not just John Harbaugh. The Ravens ran the ball twice in the second half, and they passed the ball 50 times the entire game. The play calling was terribly unbalanced, and that is what mainly led to Flacco's five interceptions. Obviously the run game wasn't working for them, but they needed to keep working at it. It is hard to win a game with your quarterback throwing it 50 times, and it is also hard to win a game with your running backs only running it nine times the entire game.
If the Ravens want to win games, they need to have a much more balanced play calling system, because that obviously didn't work out for them.
Q6: Has the blocking scheme for the offensive line changed that much? ~ @Aka_Young_Gun
Not too much, but it has changed. Run-game coordinator Juan Castillo implemented a new zone blocking scheme, but I'm not going to lie, I don't think the system is what's hurting this line.
The offensive line is struggling with a new center, penalties, not being able to protect Flacco, being unable to create holes for the running backs, etc. They have looked very poor, and it looked even worse against the Bills. The offensive line was responsible for four penalties on Sunday, Flacco was sacked four times, the running backs had 27 total yards, and it was a very sad performance.
The offense is struggling for many reasons, but this is one that is at the top of the list. If the offensive line can't get it together, then the offense may ever get better. We see what's happening in Pittsburgh with their offensive line struggles. The Ravens definitely don't want to be like the 0-4 Steelers in any way, shape, or form.
Q7: How much longer does Gino Gradkowski have before A.Q. Shipley is given a chance? ~ @Aka_Young_Gun
I highly doubt that A.Q, Shipley gets a chance at being the starting center anytime soon. Gino Gradkowski is a new starter, so of course he is struggling. The Ravens and their fans are used to seeing a very talented center in Matt Birk for many years, so it is hard seeing someone struggle at the center of the offense.
I believe that Gradkowski will be fine; he just needs a few more games to get into the rhythm of being a starting center in the NFL. No reason to panic with Gino, but there should be some worries about guys like Kelechi Osemele, Michael Oher, Bryant McKinnie, Marshal Yanda, etc.
Q8: Can Ozzie suit up and play again? We need a TE.. ~ @SuspendedChris
I wish, Chris, I wish.
Well, that is the end of this week's edition of Tuesday's Mailbag! Remember, we need questions! If you have ANY question about the Ravens, go ahead and ask! There is a 99.9% chance it'll be answered in the mailbag! To ask questions, e-mail them to me at Victorgrayh10@gmail.com, tweet them to me @Frezeal33, OR leave them in the comments below! I hope you all have a wonderful rest of your week! Go Ravens!