Joe: Is it time to just admit that the Ravens need to rebuild? What do you think of their nucleus? Do they have good young players to build around?
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.
Bob: Mike, do you think the receivers would be productive in other systems, or do the Ravens lack talent at that position?
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.
But even before he was hired by the Ravens, one member of the Ravens' front office staff watched the Vikings on film, and said: "There ain't nothing special there, just a boatload of talent." I think he was right. We haven't seen any magic in Baltimore, either.
Cory: The Browns drafted Brady Quinn last season, and Derek Anderson is a free agent at the end of the year. Is there any chance the Ravens could bring him back?
Mike Preston: If Anderson comes back to Baltimore with this present offensive coaching staff in place, then he would be like the Scarecrow in the Wizard of Oz, a man without a brain.
Jean: Why did Billick pass from the Bengals' 2-yard line at the end of the first half? Wouldn't that have been a good time to run with Willis McGahee?
Mike Preston: Maybe because it was too far to walk.
Billick said if he had run the ball, then he might not have gotten a field-goal attempt off. I didn't mind the pass to Heap that was intercepted. The Bengals defended it well, and they made a good play. On the play before, if McNair made a nice pass, that's a touchdown. There are a lot of times when I disagree with the play-calling, especially when the Ravens are in a groove, and Billick doesn't even know it. But this time, the right calls were made.
I'm sure Bisciotti was happy with it.
Happy, happy, happy.
Mike: What is the relationship between offensive coordinator Rick Neuheisel and Billick? Do you think Neuheisel is itching to call the plays at this point?
Mike Preston: I think Neuheisel is avoiding the offense like the plague. He has to distance himself from this offense, like from here to Iraq. I can't blame him.
When the Ravens named him offensive coordinator, that was supposed to be a step for him back into the college ranks as a head coach, or possibly into the NFL as the head guy. Right now, if they blame him for this offense, he couldn't become the head coach at Woodlawn Rec.