1. What was your take on Ravens rookie quarterback Joe Flacco's performance against the Pittsburgh Steelers? What were the pluses and minuses? And, at this stage of his development, what are his primary strengths and weaknesses?
He wound up performing much better than I thought he could against a very difficult defense to face in his first road start. Pittsburgh brings a variety of zone blitzes that are made to confuse quarterbacks so I thought Flacco held up well for the most part.
On the plus side, his willingness to throw the ball with hands around him was evident. And his legendary arm strength was on display. He also showed a lot of poise in the pocket which is a good trait for a young QB to have.
On the negative side, he tended to hold on to the ball too long and he also locked in to Derrick Mason too much.
2. Is this offensive line good enough, particularly tackles Adam Terry and Jared Gaither, or were they exposed by James Harrison and LaMarr Woodley? Should Willie Anderson be starting over Adam Terry or should Terry be playing left tackle over Gaither?
Gaither actually hasn't been too bad overall in their first three games. He has good feet and decent arm punch. I just think Flacco needs to get rid of the ball a little quicker more consistently. I think they need to make a decision at RT and stick with it.
3. Do you think nose guard Kelly Gregg will play again this year considering he had his left knee scoped in August and now has a hole in the cartilage and a lot of pain?
It's surprising that he's not getting closer to getting back so you have to wonder if there's something else wrong with his knee or the surgery was more serious than the team is letting on.
4. Why isn't Todd Heap more involved in the offense? Is it his health, has he lost a step or is he simply not building confidence in the coaching staff?
Other than him having to block more than usual, it's puzzling why Heap isn't receiving more attention in the passing game. He has to get more involved if the offense wants to expand.
5. Can the Ravens block Kyle Vandenbosch, Albert Haynesworth and Tony Brown? What's an effective strategy against these guys individually?
The matchup of Vanden Bosch against Gaither will go a long way to determine how their passing game will hold up. And also keep in mind they use formations where Haynesworth goes to end to Adam Terry will have his hands full on the other side. Brown, because of the attention Vanden Bosch and Haynesworth get, will see lots of single blocking. Brown has been a big surprise and is really strong against the run. Ben Grubbs and Jason Brown will have a strong challenge on their hands on Sunday.
6. Will Mark Clayton and Demetrius Williams contribute much this year, in your opinion? What's the problem here? Both are supposedly healthy.
Now that it looks like Cam Cameron is willing to open up the passing game a bit, I expect Williams to be more involved down field. That's an area where they should be taking advantage of Flacco's strong arm.
7. Do you think fullback Le'Ron McClain can carry the offense with Willis McGahee getting hurt so much? Where is rookie Ray Rice in the equation? He has been quiet lately.
Rice, believe it or not, looked slow on coaching tape earlier in the season according to a league source and it was evident that he wasn't going to give them the change of pace feature initially that they expected. So he's a work in progress.
McClain has to be one of the biggest surprises in the league thus far. For a back that is big as he is, he moves very well and he has good feet. I think McClain can be productive on 13-15 carries if need be. But they have to find a way to get Rice more involved.
8. Do you think Chris McAlister has much game left? He seems to struggle in single coverage now when he doesn't have help from safety Ed Reed. Hines Ward did whatever he wanted against McAlister.
McAlister has been decent so far. He may not be the same player he once was but he's still a physical presence against the pass. As I've noted before, he has a high salary cap number for next season (close to $11 million which is the same as this season). He also turns 32 in June.
9. Should the Ravens be worried about Yamon Figurs as a return man? He seemed shaky against the Steelers, and it wasn't the first time.
He was nursing an injury for a few weeks so that may have been a problem for timing.
10. Have the Ravens reformed in terms of on-field behavior or was linebacker Jarret Johnson's personal foul a sign that John Harbaugh hasn't truly changed the culture?
Johnson usually doesn't make mistakes like that so I don't expect that to happen again. I don't see them as undisciplined based on the first three games.
11. Do you think the Titans can run on the Ravens' top-ranked defense or are LenDale White and Chris Johnson in trouble?
Tennessee uses the same power rushing game mentality on offense. Both backs will split the carries as they have all season. White is the sledgehammer and Johnson offers the speed. You'll see him used on many runs to the outside while White will only run inside. What we saw last week against the Minnesota Vikings is that offensive coordinator Mike Heimerdinger is willing to keep calling running plays (28 last week) even against a solid run defense. So I suspect they'll dial up plenty of runs despite how good the Raven run defense is.
12. Is Finnegan the real deal at cornerback?
Yes, he's a true playmaker. He's a very smart player and is instinctive much like Asante Samuel.
13. Is Derrick Mason enough outside for Flacco to throw to or should the Ravens make a play for Roy Williams via a trade?
They have to get more size and speed at the receiver position. I suspect they'll address that position in free agency next year as well as in the draft. I would certainly make a play for Williams but Detroit may just slap the franchise tag on him next year so he can't leave.
14. If Rex Ryan gets a head coaching job after the season, do you think Greg Mattison or Chuck Pagano would replace him?
Good question. They'll want to go with someone who knows the defense well. This is the first year Mattison and Pagano with the Ravens so it's hard to see who they would go with. Pagano coached Fabian Washington with the Raiders and he also coached Ed Reed in college so that could be a small factor later on.
15. Who do you think will win Sunday's game and why?
I'm picking the Ravens simply because it's so hard to beat them at home. I expect it to be a close, low-scoring game with possibly a field goal difference. 16-13.
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