Chris: Do you think the Ravens would be better off letting quarterback Troy Smith finish the season? What is the point of letting Kyle Boller start the final two games?
Mike Preston: At first, I thought it would be better off allowing Smith to start, but I've reconsidered that in the past two games. The Ravens' offensive line hasn't protected the quarterback well, and I'm not sure how Smith would handle that situation. I like the spot duty he has gotten in the last two games, especially when the game was on the line against Miami. I still don't think he is the answer to the Ravens' quarterback problem, but he has handled himself well. Too many times fans have gotten giddy about backup quarterbacks, and they have failed. I've just learned to keep my fingers, eyes, and toes crossed when it comes to quarterbacks.
Paul: Mike, why is Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti so loyal to coach Brian Billick? Do you think ownership dropped the ball by saying Billick would be back before the Dolphins game?
Mike Preston: Nope. Ownership dropped the ball when they gave Billick a four-year contract extension when he was going into his ninth season as the Ravens head coach. A one- or two-year extension would have served the purpose. Instead, the Ravens got caught up in the emotion of a 13-win season.
Now, the party is over. Turn out the lights.
Brian: Do you agree with Billick's decision to kick a field goal with 12 seconds left in regulation and the ball at the 1-yard line? The offensive players were pumped and wanted to go for it. CompuCoach took the easy way out.
Mike Preston: Personally, I would have gone for the touchdown. That's just me. That was a man-up situation. That's football. It comes down to one play and it's your best against my best. Winner takes all. I go for the kill, just like LSU's Les Miles, or Bill Parcells or Bill Belichick. What the heck? Let's rumble.
Now, with that said, I have no problem with Billick's decision. This was a team that had lost seven straight games. They needed something to hang their hats on, something to build on headed into next season. It's one thing for me to say go for it, it fails and I turn off the TV set. These guys practice all week. Billick has to make the flight back home with them. His decision was logical. He got the field goal. He won the coin toss and ran the ball down Miami's throat. When Matt Stover walked out on the field, I thought it was automatic, and the Ravens would win. So, Billick gave his team a great chance to win, and that's all you can ask from a coach.
There were no time management issues here. I thought Billick called a good game.
Dominic: With most of the players already signed for next year and not much cap room, what changes can be made for 2008?
Mike Preston: The Ravens can make a lot of changes if they want. If they want more cap room, all they have to do is renegotiate contracts. It will catch up with them down the road, but if there is need for a certain player, they can make room. If I was running the Ravens, I'd hire a new offensive coordinator and give him total control of the offense. I would also allow him to hire his own coaches, and just make Billick an overseer.
I would bring in new secondary coaches because the players apparently aren't getting the message on the backend of the defense. I'd draft a cornerback and a quarterback, and then go from there.
Doug: Assess the run-blocking of the Ravens' offensive line this season. It seems like even when running back Willis McGahee has good games, he's doing it by himself. Does the line lack talent, or is it a case of motivation?
Mike Preston: It's a matter of inexperience. There is no cohesiveness, yet. You have two rookies on the right side, and two veterans in left tackle Jonathan Ogden and center Mike Flynn who have missed extensive time, and are still slowed by injuries. I think the rookies have hit the wall where they are starting to get tired.
I agree, McGahee does get a lot of yardage on his own. Also, the running game hasn't been as successful since the Ravens allowed offensive line coach Jim Colletto and running backs coach Matt Simon to leave. They both were allowed to leave and take jobs elsewhere, and they took the running game with them.
Glenn: Do you think Billick got too conservative in overtime when the Ravens settled for a 44-yard field-goal attempt?
Mike Preston: I know why you're asking me that question. Once the Ravens got to the Miami 24-yard line in overtime, the Dolphins loaded up with run blitzes and the Ravens lost two yards on two successive running plays before sending out Stover.
It would have been the perfect time for play-action passes, but the Ravens had already given up four sacks. They were also starting a rookie quarterback. Also, I go back to Stover. He is one of the best clutch kickers in the game. He's won a lot of games for the Ravens, and I thought he was going to hit the 44-yard field-goal attempt. Again, I had no problems with the play-calling.
Matthew: Have you seen any improvement from Corey Ivy? He's shown he's not capable of filling in when one of the starting cornerbacks goes down.
Mike Preston: Agreed. The Ravens ought to ask him for a rebate.
Benjamin: Does general manager Ozzie Newsome deserve some blame for this team's lack of depth, or has the coaching staff just done a poor job of developing talent?
Mike Preston: Read . It's a combination of both, but I don't think this team has a depth problem. I think they just have weaknesses in the secondary.
Pat: Much was made of Troy Smith's height during the draft. Is that his biggest obstacle to becoming a starter in the NFL? What does he most need to work on?
Mike Preston: From what I saw in training camp, Smith wasn't very accurate. He threw a lot of passes hard, much like Boller. He seemed to have trouble adjusting to the speed of the game. He tried to force passes, which he would have gotten away with in college, but not in the NFL. He has good pocket awareness, and great leadership ability. The players like him, so it will be interesting to see how this works out. You don't need to be a great athlete to be a quarterback, but you do need to be a fierce competitor.
A.G.: Mike, what has been the difference with Jamal Lewis in Cleveland this season? He's been having a strong season with the Browns.
Mike Preston: The Browns' offensive line is underrated, especially when it comes to run blocking. Also, Lewis just needed a change of pace. He didn't get along with Billick, and thought Newsome reneged on a contract deal. Now, he is rejuvenated and running like the old Lewis again. I thought if he left Baltimore and played somewhere else, he had at least one more good year in him.