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Ravens Mail: How should Ravens offense attack Patriots?

It's time to click open the weekly Baltimore Ravens' Twitter mailbag ...

@jamisonhensley: The numbers say the Ravens should throw it against New England. The Patriots allowed an average of 60.1 yards passing in the first quarter in the regular season, which is the seventh-most in the NFL. Only two other defenses in the NFL had worse net yards per pass attempt than the Patriots (7.9) in the first quarter. This makes sense for where the Ravens offense is right now. Joe Flacco is among the best postseason quarterbacks recently, and Ravens running back Justin Forsett has struggled down the stretch (55.5 yards rushing in his past four games). The Ravens are among the slowest starting offenses in the league this season, and have been shut out in the first quarter of their past three games.

@jamisonhensley: Trying to slow down Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski is going to be difficult. ESPN Patriots reporter Mike Reiss considers Gronkowski to be the Most Valuable Player on the team this season. This week, I expected safety Will Hill to match up against him. But, after hearing defensive coordinator Dean Pees' concerns about Gronkowski's size, I'm wondering if the Ravens will put a linebacker like C.J. Mosley on him. The Ravens have held their own against tight ends this season, allowing them to score five times (and two came against Jimmy Graham). Gronkowski is at a different level. He caught 82 passes for 1,124 yards and 12 touchdowns. His impact goes beyond the numbers. He can block, and he can allow others to get open. There were times this season when teams bracketed four players on Gronkowski in the red zone.

@jamisonhensley: This hinges on whether offensive tackle Eugene Monroe will play. He is questionable with an ankle injury, but he practiced every day this week. I would be surprised if Monroe sat out a third straight game. If he starts at left tackle, the Ravens will be at their best if they flip undrafted rookie James Hurst from left to right tackle, and move Marshal Yanda from right tackle to guard. The Patriots are big in the middle, especially with defensive tackle Vince Wilfork. It's critical that the Ravens are solid in the middle, so they are best served if Yanda and Kelechi Osemele are the guards. The other option is sticking with the right side of rookie John Urschel at guard and Yanda at tackle. But Yanda is the best guard in the league. If the Ravens have a choice, they should play him at guard.

@jamisonhensley: It's an understatement to say Rashaan Melvin has exceeded expectations. He's been solid for the Ravens, starting three games including the wild-card game at Pittsburgh. If you watched the tape, you wouldn't know he was on two practice squads and out of football for five weeks this season. He's an exclusive-rights free agent at the end of the season, which means the Ravens can retain him by tendering him a contract. It's safe to say the Ravens will keep him. The Ravens, though, can't assume he's going to play like this next season. Improving at cornerback has to be a priority. The Ravens should still draft a cornerback, which would give them three quality cornerbacks (assuming Jimmy Smith is healthy and Lardarius Webb is back at a hefty $12 million salary-cap number). Under that scenario, Melvin and Asa Jackson could battle for the No. 4 cornerback spot.

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