Mike Preston: There is a greater chance of this franchise moving back to Cleveland than Billick giving up the play-calling duties. To give up the play-calling would admit he was at fault for all of the offensive failures for nine years, and that's not going to happen. To do that would undermine him in front of his players. But guess what? I wouldn't care. Owner Steve Bisciotti and general manager Ozzie Newsome's main priority is to win football games, not worry about a coach getting his ego hurt. If the Ravens took the play-calling away from Billick, they would make it look as if it was Billick's decision. Clearly, we all know better.
Ravens questions for Sun columnist Mike Preston can be submitted on game days from halftime until three hours after the game.
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Ahmed: Do you think this team will have problems in the locker room if the losing continues?
Mike Preston: Oh, this team could implode. There are a lot of veterans on the roster in the twilight of their careers. They came to Baltimore for one more shot at a title. If you don't think the frustration is already starting to show, then take a look or listen to the comments on Ray Lewis' radio show. There were a lot of guys ticked off with Billick about the play-calling in the Buffalo game. Lewis is making an attempt to tell ownership that something needs to be done to improve this offense.
This team isn't in disarray like it was two years ago. Back then, few players paid attention to Billick, and a lot of them were concerned about future contracts. Billick got his message across to the players after Sunday's loss in Buffalo, but they want to know what he is going to do about the sorry offense and poor play-calling. He pointed fingers at them, and they're going to point them back. He better have some answers.
Meanwhile, some of the same veterans complaining about Billick need to step up and become less selfish and more team-oriented. Until that happens, the Ravens will struggle.
Glenn: How much of the blame for this loss goes to the coaching staff, given that the team looked totally unprepared and uninspired?
Mike Preston: A loss never comes down to one player, one play, one coach or an official's decision. With that said, the coaching staff has to take some blame. The Ravens had 11 penalties, which shows a lack of discipline. The play-calling was atrocious again, and if some better decisions were made, the Ravens might have won.
But a coach can't play pass defense for Corey Ivy. He can't heal Jonathan Ogden or Chris McAlister. He can't play for rookie offensive tackle Jared Gaither. He can't catch the ball for Yamon Figurs. Right now, the Ravens just aren't a very good team. They need a week off. Billick needs a week off. The coaching staff needs a week off. You and I need a week off because it's been tough watching this team for seven weeks.
Frank: Assess the play of the Ravens' wide receivers so far this season. How do they compare to other NFL teams in terms of their playmaking ability?
Mike Preston: The Ravens have wide receivers? I thought they were just halfbacks who ran short wheel routes off the line of scrimmage. I thought receivers went downfield and caught passes longer than eight yards? Terrell Owens is a wide receiver. Randy Moss is a wide receiver. We just have a bunch of running backs and tight end Todd Heap.
Compared to the rest of the league, it's a decent group of receivers. The Ravens still don't have that bonafide No. 1 receiver that strikes fear in defensive coordinators, but Derrick Mason does what the Ravens ask him to do. Fellow receiver Mark Clayton is just starting to come into form after struggling with injuries. For some reason, this team doesn't use Demetrius Williams enough. The Ravens' receivers aren't as good as the Patriots' or the Colts', but they have much more potential than what this offense gets out of them.
David: It looked like Jared Gaither did a better job in pass-blocking this week. How do you think he played?
Mike Preston: Gaither did play better. He moved his feet well, didn't get overextended while run blocking and didn't lunge while pass blocking. But he did get a lot of help from his tight end and halfback chipping on defensive end Aaron Schobel. But Gaither is only a rookie, and if he gets in the weight room during the summer, he could have an excellent career.
Matt: I know Willis McGahee needed an IV Sunday, but what do you make of Billick's reluctance to use him more this season?
Mike Preston: I don't think McGahee reported to training camp in the best shape, and I also think the Ravens are trying to preserve him a little for the second half of the season. I also think if Mr. McGahee made a few adjustments in his lifestyle it would make him more successful on Sunday afternoons.
Bacon: What is a realistic outlook for the rest of the season?
Mike Preston: The Ravens will finish 10-6 if the football gods look down and bless them. They'll be 9-7 if they play hard and well at home. If they continue to play in the second half like they did in the first, ooh, this could get really ugly.
Ben: What is with the lack of pass rush and poor play by the secondary?
Mike Preston: Despite what Terrell Suggs is saying, he hasn't played as well as last season. Another top pass rusher from a year ago, linebacker Bart Scott, is now dropping more into pass coverage. He is also on the outside more as opposed to playing inside a year ago. Trevor Pryce became the team's best pass rusher a year ago among the defensive linemen, but has missed extensive time because of an injury. If the Ravens don't blitz or they don't get pressure from Pryce, then they're in trouble.
So far without Pryce, they're not getting pressure on the quarterback. If you can't apply pressure, any quarterback in the NFL can sit back and tear a secondary apart. As for the secondary, that group has a lot of issues. Cornerbacks McAlister and Samari Rolle have missed time because of injuries, and safety Ed Reed does what he wants to do. There have also been a lot of communication problems.
Staci: Was Demetrius Williams on the field less than usual? If so, why?
Mike Preston: With Clayton getting over his leg injuries, we'll see more of Clayton and less of Williams except when the Ravens go to three wide receivers. Both are good, young receivers who have the ability to pick up yards after the catch. Well, they could in most offenses. They struggle here in Baltimore because the Ravens have a prevent offense.
Keith: Can the Ravens really claim to have a great defense when they have so many problems against the no-huddle? Also, are the defensive problems going to hurt Rex Ryan's chances of getting a head coaching job?
Mike Preston: The Ravens have a good defense, but not great. They still have enough ability to overpower some of the worst teams in the league, but they struggle with teams that can pass well, and run the no-huddle. As for Ryan, I don't think he is talking a lot about getting a head-coaching job next season. His priority right now is to patch up his defense, especially in the secondary.