Mike Preston: Regardless of if they have a winning season or not this year, it is time for the Ravens to have some salary cap casualties. Regardless of if they are playing well or not, the Ravens might lose some veterans like Samari Rolle, Derrick Mason, Mike Flynn and Trevor Pryce. I think the Ravens have a decent nucleus because they had some outstanding drafts. They should have a good offensive line and good skill players on offense for years to come. They have a good nucleus up front on defense, and if they re-sign Terrell Suggs, they should have one of the better front sevens in the league again. The base is there on both sides of the ball to be successful again. If they have to rebuild, it won't take long. But I won't put them in the rebuilding stage.
Ravens questions for Sun columnist Mike Preston can be submitted on game days from halftime until three hours after the game.
Mike Preston: At the beginning of the season, I said the Ravens don't have a legitimate No. 1 receiver, and they haven't proved me wrong. They don't have that big, fast receiver like a Terrell Owens or a Randy Moss that other teams have to game plan for and respect. Mark Clayton, Demetrius Williams and Mason are very similar receivers. Williams has explosiveness, but the Ravens don't take a lot of shots with him downfield. Both Clayton and Mason are possession types. As a group, they are better than average. They won't be anything special in the Ravens' offense because of its poor design, but they could be successful with other teams.
Matthew: How did Derrick Martin and Ronnie Prude play against the Bengals' receivers?
Mike Preston: As a group, the secondary played as well as could be expected considering the Ravens were missing two starting cornerbacks in Rolle and Chris McAlister. They gave up some big plays, but no touchdowns. The secondary needed some help from the Ravens' offense to help control the ball, but they got very little. Overall, it was a great, but wasted effort by the defense again.
Evan: What kind of coach would best suit this Ravens team? Do you think Marty Schottenheimer would be a good fit? Bill Cowher?
Mike Preston: Ooooh, Evan, I bet you've been hearing those Cowher rumors, too. Both Cowher and Schottenheimer are outstanding coaches, and the Ravens wouldn't go wrong in hiring either one of them. Personally, I'd like to see a more offensive-minded coach come in if the Ravens fired Billick because we've already had nine years of boring offensive football. But I don't know if the Ravens will make a change. Billick still has three years remaining on his contract, and owner Steve Bisciotti has to be happy with the job Billick is doing.
A few weeks ago I pointed out that Bisciotti was unhappy with Billick's offense, and people wanted to know how I knew. So, I guess I was wrong.
Now, I'm assuming he is happy with his team because they've lost three in a row and haven't won an AFC North game this year. He has to be happy because he doesn't have a legitimate starting quarterback. He is happy because most of the fans had left the stadium Sunday with 11 minutes left in the game, and the Ravens lost to a team at home that scored seven field goals, and no touchdowns.
Happy, happy, happy.
Ronald: How has Troy Smith progressed in practice? Can he be the Ravens' quarterback of the future, or do you think the Ravens need to address the QB position in the draft?
Mike Preston: Smith is the scout team quarterback and will probably be the quarterback of the future on the scout team next year.
He is limited and a project, probably a No. 2 quarterback at best. As for the draft, it's a good year for quarterbacks. My only problem is that unless the Ravens overhaul their offensive system, Baltimore will remain the graveyard for quarterbacks.
A lot of quarterbacks of the future have had no futures at all after playing in Baltimore. I wouldn't want that title in this town.
Chris: What is the Ravens' biggest offseason need? Just trying to think ahead here.
Mike Preston: Kill the offensive system, and get a new offensive coordinator that isn't a "yes" man. Then get a quarterback, and after that, get a cornerback.
Lorenzo: What contributed to Brian Billick's success in Minnesota? Was it simply that he had better players than he has now, or did he receive credit for someone else's system?
Mike Preston: He had wide receivers named Cris Carter and Moss, and a quarterback named Randall Cunningham. He had a running back named Robert Smith, and three Pro Bowl offensive linemen, including two on the left side. Billick may have called the plays, but the system was already in place, implemented by Dennis Green. Billick had as much talent on that offense as any team in the league.