Mike Preston’s Ravens mailbag: Answering questions about trade deadline, inconsistent offense, potential re-signings and more | COMMENTARY

Baltimore Sun columnist Mike Preston will answer fans’ questions throughout the Ravens season. Coming off Baltimore’s 38-6 win in Week 7 against the Detroit Lions, plenty of questions remain heading into a Week 8 matchup against the Arizona Cardinals.

Here’s Preston’s take:

(Editor’s note: Questions have been edited for length and clarity.)

With the trade deadline looming, is there a particular player/position that you think the Ravens should pursue to strengthen the roster? — Paul in Orlando

The Ravens are in the same shape as several teams. They could use some help in many areas, including running back, offensive line and outside linebacker. That could change in a week or two, but right now the Ravens are 5-2 and there don’t seem to be any big names out there who would have a significant impact such as middle linebacker Roquan Smith did last year when he was acquired from the Chicago Bears. Except Tennessee Titans running back Derrick Henry. Can you imagine that guy in the Ravens’ backfield?

It might be wishful thinking right now, but you never know which player might be available. You look at some of the older players on the Ravens’ roster such as outside linebackers Jadeveon Clowney and Kyle Van Noy and wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. and wonder whether they will hold up for the entire season.

Why do you think the Ravens offense has been so inconsistent, particularly in the second half of games? — Andy in Hagerstown

I think you can look at halftime adjustments and the lack of a killer instinct. The Ravens have had big leads in several games this season, so the emphasis isn’t on making changes but seeing what the opposing team does to slow them down. I’m not sure there has been that type of preparation, even though the Ravens finished strong against Detroit last week.

Even when doing well, coordinators need to plan for changes by the opposition and decide what their counter will be. Some have said the Ravens have been conservative on offense in the second half, but that’s not true. They’ve made mistakes and been inconsistent, especially passing the ball. They’ll need to improve in those areas if they want to advance deep into the postseason.

If Marlon Humphrey is considered a “lockdown” cornerback, why is it that opposing teams are regularly throwing to the receiver he is covering? — Jan

I’ve never considered Humphrey a lockdown or shutdown corner. I think he is a very good player and competes extremely hard, but there aren’t very many shutdown corners in the NFL similar to Deion Sanders or Darrelle Revis. Once a team finds one, they don’t let them leave.

Do you think the performances by the running backs on Sunday put an end to potential trade rumors? Both Justice Hill and Gus Edwards had rushes of 20-plus yards; is the running game’s potential more reliant upon the dominance of the offensive Line than who the running back is? — Seth Goldstein

Nope. There is always a need for running backs because they are so prone to injury, but I don’t see the Ravens making a trade unless they can upgrade what they already have. Both Hill and Edwards are limited; Edwards is good at running inside and Hill has the speed and burst to get outside and also become a weapon in the passing game on third down. The Ravens, though, would like a more complete back who can do all of those things, and that was supposed to be J.K. Dobbins’ role this season before he tore his Achilles tendon in Week 1. At this point, the Ravens will be open to a trade pending the cost and whether it would be a significant upgrade for the entire offense, not just the running game.

The way Patrick Queen, Geno Stone and Justin Madubuike have been playing so far this season, have they all priced themselves out of coming back for the Ravens next season? Or do you see a scenario where at least 2 of the 3 return? — Paul in Orlando

I said before the season started that Queen was going to have a big year because he has a complementary player at middle linebacker in Smith and is entering the final year of his rookie contract. If I were Queen, I would test the open market because his speed and experience make him attractive. The same can be said for Madubuike, who has improved each of his four seasons. His quickness and penetration allow him to disrupt the running game, but he has also become a force as a pass rusher. He hasn’t maxed out his potential yet.

It will be hard for the Ravens to re-sign both, especially since they signed Smith to a five-year, $100 million contract extension toward the end of last season. As for Stone, he’s had an exceptional first half of the season. He is an extremely intelligent player who relies more on awareness than athleticism and is willing to make the most of every opportunity. It all depends on the Ravens’ salary cap situation and bids from other teams, but all three have earned themselves a big payday.

With both Smith and quarterback Lamar Jackson under big contracts, the Ravens might have trouble re-signing any of those players, with the possible exception of Stone.

Have a question for Mike Preston? Email sports@baltsun.com with “Ravens mailbag” in the subject line and it could be answered in The Baltimore Sun.


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