1:17 PM EDT, October 3, 2005
Mike Preston: Come on, Bill. How can you not be encouraged? The Ravens scored 13 points on a handicapped football team. Wow. Ooooh. Ahhhh. Look out Steelers, Bengals and Patriots.
You've got to take the Brian Billick approach. As far as he is concerned, the Ravens are 1-0, baby. It was good that the team finally won a game, any game. Overall, it was disappointing. The Ravens had two weeks to prepare, and this is the best they can come up with. There is no offensive cohesion. The Ravens ran the ball against the Jets, but only averaged 2.6 yards a carry against one of the worst run defenses in the league. Early impressions of the Ravens are they'll win between seven to nine games. Because the league is so weak (parity), they'll be in playoff contention, but unless we start seeing significant improvement, they're just an average football team. Of course, you can put on the purple sunglasses, drink the purple wine and say they're in first place and undefeated.
The Ravens, though, do have a secret weapon. It's me. I got a lot of credit for the Jets' win because my criticism of the offensive line, and general team play inspired them. I almost wanted to cry. I felt like part of the team. I thought Anthony Wright was going to high-five me. Deion Sanders actually asked the Lord to continue to bless me. Samari Rolle said, "So you're Mike Preston?" I was going to start signing autographs. For the first time, this former, Towson University wannabe felt like part of an NFL club. Now, I want my money for being a motivational expert. If that doesn't happen, at least give me a damn game ball.
Raving, Lompoc, Calif.: What is the deal with Ricard? You claim he was never hurt yet the Ravens claim he was injured for the first two games and then re-injured himself again this past week. Are we supposed to believe you or the organization? Please clue me in on why the Ravens would create an injury for him when he is really 100 percent?
Mike Preston: Let me give you a little history here. A couple of years ago I wrote that right offensive tackle Orlando Brown and offensive line coach Jim Colletto had a loud argument in the locker room after the Miami game. The Ravens denied it. Weeks later, both Colletto and Brown publicly admitted it, and joked about it.
Last year, I wrote the Ravens had chemistry problems in the locker room. Billick denied it during the regular season, but since has publicly acknowledged there were problems.
In the preseason, I wrote running back Jamal Lewis didn't want to play in a preseason game because of stalled contract negotiations. The Ravens said it wasn't true. Two days later, Lewis blasted the team publicly for failing to negotiate with his agent.
I wrote Billick and offensive coordinator Jim Fassel had a loud altercation earlier this season. Billick denied it even though there is physical proof that it happened. (Hint: Is it live or is it Memorex?)
So when the Ravens don't put Ricard on the injury list but say he is injured, and then Ricard not once, but twice denies it, what would you do? You let both sides say whatever they want, and let the readers decide. I don't think the Ravens were happy with the way Ricard practiced in the preseason, and the injury allowed them an excuse to try to become more balanced and throw the football instead of becoming a run-oriented team. Ricard, though injured, could have played. He wasn't happy with the situation and neither was halfback Jamal Lewis.
The bottom line with the Ravens is that they're a PR machine and they're going to deny a lot of things if it makes the organization look bad. Billick and the Ravens PR staff know me very well. We fight, but we respect each other. I know how the spin works, but they know I'm not just "throwing it out there." Their first question isn't, 'Is it true?' but 'Who leaked it to him?'
It drives the Ravens nutty trying to find out who leaks information, so much in fact, that Billick often puts my picture and stories up in power point presentations during team meetings. It got so bad one year that former Ravens defensive end Rob Burnett jokingly nicknamed me "Osama Bin Laden." Billick knows it won't work, but it might diminish some information coming out of the complex.
Regardless, it hasn't affected my relationships with players like Jamal and Ray Lewis, Adalius Thomas, Peter Boulware, Chris McAlister, Jonathan Ogden, Orlando Brown, Edwin Mulitalo, or former players like Burnett, Sam Adams, Tony Siragusa, Michael McCrary or Wally Williams.
They know I'm going to write whatever I feel about any issue. I'm going to challenge Billick and criticize anyone if they aren't playing well. Most importantly, they know that I cannot be manipulated by the organization, its owner, coach or PR staff.
Brian, Cockeysville: Thank you for taking the time to answer questions for fans and keep it real in your coverage of the Ravens. As I watched the game, I noted that Ravens almost NEVER throw 2 plays in a row. It would seem that after a big completion, the offense would want to keep the momentum and continue to throw the rock. Why do the Ravens insist on these dive-run plays when the offense gets on a roll?
Mike Preston: There have been a lot of times during the Billick era the Ravens have thrown two times in a row. At one point against Indianapolis in the season opener, the Ravens had 13 straight offensive plays, 12 of them passes. The game plan against New York was simple: run the ball and run it some more. With a quarterback that's unpredictable and a line that can't block, it was sound strategy against the Jets, a team that had one of the worst run defenses in the league. Will it work against the better teams? Nope. Biscuit told me that one.
Chris, Baltimore: I personally think the Ravens are a better team with Wright at the helm. I'll ask the obvious question: With Detroit, Cleveland and Houston on the horizon, the Ravens have a good chance to be 4-2. Do you think Billick will bring back Boller in the middle of a possible win streak?
Mike Preston: Win streak? That's funny. In past years, you could look at the schedule and pick out which games the Ravens would win or lose and feel good about it. Not any more, not after the disaster in Tennessee, not after that game against the Jets. What I saw Sunday were two struggling teams playing each other, and a Ravens team that had not gotten much better despite the bye week.
In all honesty Chris, I'm worn out from all the quarterback controversies through the years. Like you, I believe the offense is better with Anthony Wright than Kyle Boller, but it's not a significant upgrade. At this point, I don't care who runs this offense. It could be Wright. It could be Boller. Hell, they could bring in Barney and it isn't going to make much difference. But at least he has a purple uniform.
Marco, Owings Mills: Stover looked much better today. Has he corrected his mechanics problems and were the last weeks just a fluke?
Mike Preston: Stover is a perfectionist and he might be able to kick for another two or three years. Stover said he hurried too much when he missed three field goals in the opener. Knowing him, he probably went back over old film and timed his approach to the ball. The ball wasn't rocketing off his foot in preseason either, but he seems to have made the necessary adjustments.
Shane, San Jose, Calif.: Where in the world is Ed Reed? Should I start worrying about him? The only time he showed up was on a punt or on a couple of long pass plays.
Mike Preston: Well, we know he is no longer located next to Ray Lewis in the locker room, or close to him on team flights. When you aren't hearing about cornerbacks and safeties, that's a good thing. Actually, Reed has played well. He comes up in run support, and he had 4 tackles against the Jets. There aren't a lot of teams challenging him in the middle of the field, that's for sure.
A year ago, Reed wasn't a pleasure to be around. His teammates disliked him because of his arrogance, and he rubbed a lot of the media the wrong way as well. But this season he has become "one of the guys" again, and a media favorite. Reed has kind of found his niche on the team as a player and person. He may not be making as many big plays this season because more teams have respect for him. You don't challenge playmakers unless you have to.
Shane, Overlea: How do you feel about DB Samari Rolle's play as a Raven and has he lived up to the big contract so far?
Mike Preston: It's the same with Rolle as it is with Reed. You don't hear a lot from him because teams would rather challenge McAlister than Rolle. Rolle used to be a decent hitter and came up on run support, be he's older and much more fragile now. He's basically a pure cover corner. If you think he's going to stick a running back in run support, think again, that's no longer his style. Like Reed, he commands a lot of respect.
JLS, York, Pa.: Does this mess belong to Brian Billick or to Ozzie Newsome? It seems like the poor offensive scheme is Billick's but the aging personnel is Ozzie's. Other than a more athletic O-line, what else is needed to turn this around?
Mike Preston: There's enough of this mess to spread around. Billick wanted Boller as his quarterback even as a rookie, and the Ravens basically wasted the final peak years of players like Ray Lewis, Jonathan Ogden, Peter Boulware and maybe even Jamal Lewis. All of these guys have slipped as far as ability. Newsome should have upgraded the offensive line heading into the season, but apparently felt they had enough juice left to help carry this offense. After all of these years, it's safe to assume there is something wrong with this scheme, as far as the passing game. It's too vanilla. We all thought that would change with Fassel as the new offensive coordinator, but it's apparent that he only tweaked this offense. It's still Billick's system. It's still a mess.
To turn it around, the Ravens need some defensive line help, especially someone who can collapse the pocket in the middle. They also need a nickel back, and a presence at weakside linebacker.
Joey, College Park: It looked like the Ravens started to work Tony Pashos in at right tackle. Is Orlando Brown losing his job? He's 34 now and clearly past his prime.
Mike Preston: The Ravens would like for Pashos to take over, but he's not ready for prime time either. He's way too slow. Yes, Brown is past his prime, about two years past it, but I don't fault him. Newsome gave him the opportunity and the contract to play, and he took it. Brown probably won't be back next season.
Cedric, Nevada: With the slow start of the Ravens and the fast start of the Bengals and with both teams being close talent-wise, Who is the better head coach - Brian Billick or Marvin Lewis?
Mike Preston: Based on what has happened so far in their careers, this is no contest in Billick's favor.
People quickly forget that Billick won a Super Bowl in his second season. Regardless of the poor offensive performances, the Ravens have played meaningful games late in the season during Billick's tenure as head coach.
Lewis has the Bengals in first place, but in two previous seasons he was no better than .500. Lewis will do well, and I believe he'll eventually become a better coach than Billick because he has a better knowledge of the X&Os. But I also think Lewis owes a lot to Billick who helped him improve his media as well as organizational skills.