Michelle, Baltimore: Why didn't Chester Taylor play against the Jaguars?
Mike Preston: It's a secret. Huge. Maybe it's because Chester is a weapon of mass destruction. Billick said Monday that Taylor missed the week of practice for personal reasons, and he didn't feel comfortable putting him in on offense because he wasn't fully prepared. I understand that decision. What I don't understand is how he can't understand the offense. You read the playbook for five minutes, and that's enough. Anyway, it wouldn't have made a difference if Taylor had played.
Dean, Delaware: Why is it that Chester Taylor has been used less often since the fans and media started pushing for him to play more? Is it coaching ego getting in the way of what is best for the team? Isn't it time to give him a legitimate shot as the lead running back? Jamal Lewis had more carries (14) in the Jaquars game than Taylor has had in the past four games (13). Let's see what Taylor and Musa Smith can do the rest of the way and park Jamal Lewis on the bench.
Mike Preston: Dean, you answered your own question. I told people a couple of weeks ago that if fans and the media started campaigning for Jamal Lewis to remain the starter, Billick would have started Chester. No one can suggest or tell him what to do. It goes back to his reluctance to run the ball in 2000, and continued with his not playing Randall Cunningham over Elvis Grbac. Playing Taylor might make the coach look bad, especially now that the team is out of contention. I suggest you keep asking for Jamal, and you might get Chester. As for Musa Smith, I think he needs to be put in the mix with the other two. With seven games remaining, there is plenty of playing time for all three running backs.
Chris, Baltimore: Did the Ravens just take a step backwards by putting Boller back in? The virtually non-existant vertical game is now totally gone. Seems that Wright would at least move the team without the benefit of a running game. What are the chances of an open QB competition next year if they stick with Boller and Wright?
Mike Preston: If there is an open competition between Wright and Boller for the starting job next season, the Ravens are doomed. Do you hear me? Doomed. They're both serviceable, but no better than backups in the NFL. Wright has a stronger arm, and he does give the Ravens more of a vertical attack. But without a strong offensive line, neither player can get it done in Baltimore. The Ravens need to go out and find a legitimate, quality quarterback. They need to add some athletic, versatile offensive linemen and then junk the present offensive system. It's atrocious, poorly designed and ineffective. Boller vs Wright? Oh puh-leeze, no mas.
Mike, Charlestown: Do you think Kyle Boller would be any better if he were with any other team? How do you think Peyton Manning would do in the Ravens' terrible offense?
Mike Preston: Boller needs to play for a team where everything is already in place. He can't carry a team. He isn't a playmaker, but a caretaker (I learned to rhyme from Jesse Jackson). In Baltimore, where they're going to rebuild, they're going to need a player stronger than Boller and Wright at the quarterback position. Of course, the Ravens would be better with Peyton Manning. They would be better with Brett Favre or Tom Brady, but I'm not sure any of those guys could remain healthy playing behind this offensive line. Body armor is needed here. Playing quarterback in Baltimore is like smoking cigarettes: it can be hazardous to your health.
Dave, North East: While watching Sunday's offensive outburst against the Jags, I began to wonder: How does the Ravens sorry scoring output this season rank against the NFL's all-time most inept offenses? Also, how does the Ravens offense during Brian Billick's tenure stack up against the rest of the league during that same period?
Mike Preston: I'm not a big stat guy. Worse yet, I don't feel like looking the stuff up. Dave, you've watched this horrible offensive show over the years. It's third-and-10, and the Ravens run a 5-yard pattern. Wow. For the first three or four years in the Billick offense, the Ravens favorite pass plays were either ally-oops or fades. What creativity? Their two-minute offense is an embarrassment, and the Ravens quarterbacks have been some of the worst fumbling, bumbling, stumbling boobs in the league over the past seven years. They have Pro Bowl players at four key offensive positions, and they can't score a touchdown. Not one rotten, stinkin', freakin', blinkin' touchdown. You look up inept in the dictionary, and there is a picture of the Ravens offense next to it.
Sean, Columiba: So Mike, now that we've assured ourselves of a top-5 draft pick, what should we do with it and who should we get? We definitely need an O-line, but Reggie Bush would be too good to pass up if we were to trade up. What do you think?
Mike Preston: Reggie Bush is a stud, worthy of the No. 1 pick overall. I'd take him before I took his quarterback teammate. If he's available, you take him. You can always find some good offensive linemen in round two or three, especially quality guards. You can also find some good offensive linemen via free agency, but a Bush only comes along once in a while. The guy looks special. He has great change of direction, can run around or hurdle people. He runs with surprising power. This is one Bush I'd vote for.
Wes, Fresno, Calif.: Hey Mike, with Billick halfway out the door, which young coordinators would fit well in Baltimore? I think we need a hard-nosed coach to take over this group of players. Would Steve Bisciotti consider a good college coach? I know the Butch Davis experiment failed in Cleveland along with the Steve Spurrier experiment in Washington, but look at Nick Saban in Miami. How about Pat Hill from Fresno State? He is hard-nosed, worked for Belichick, and spent one year with the Ravens? What are your thoughts?
Mike Preston: I'm sure the Ravens have a short list, and they realize where this is headed. Let's be realistic. It's the halfway point of the season and this team is dead. If they continue to play this way, then the Ravens have to fire Billick. Now, with that said, I'm sure the Ravens will look at Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz and Fresno coach Pat Hill. Both were assistants here under Ted Marchibroda and earlier with Bill Belichick in Cleveland. There are a number of assistants (coordinators) available, but there might be some good head coaches let go later in the season. Teams usually hire the opposite of what they already have. I suspect the next coach will be a disciplinarian, demanding and offensive minded. Scratch that. He'll be offensive minded, but actually be able to scheme and score points. The Ravens have to sell tickets. Seven years of poor offensive football has turned some people off.
Ash, Manchester, U.K.: I don't get to watch these games, just the real-time stats on the web (which is probably a blessing). How is it possible that this offensive group does not even show glimmers of improvement from Saturday to Saturday? What does the coaching staff do all week? Surely, as professionals, they know they are digging their own graves by not giving their team, or their fans, something resembling a change. When will their own survival instincts start to impact their game planning?
Mike Preston:Never. It's over. The fat lady is singing. The beer is cold. Let's call it a day. The Ravens fired offensive coordinator Matt Cavanaugh last season, and it's still the same bore and snore offense. We're stuck until the owner either makes a change, or forces one.
Matthew, Baltimore: I'll go out on a limb and say that Kyle Boller is not the answer. What are some options at quarterback via draft or free agency? What is your take on David Carr? I've heard speculation that he could be released if the Texans don't pay out a bonus at the end of the year. We would also need to upgrade the offensive line for any quarterback to be successful. What are some options at either offensive tackle or guard through free agency?
Mike Preston: I hope you're joking about going out on the limb in your prediction for Boller. You don't have to be Nostradamus to make that one. As for options, maybe the Ravens can make a trade for the Chargers' Philip Rivers or the Falcons' Matt Schaub. I'm not sure about any of the college quarterbacks, including USC's Matt Lineart. What the Ravens need to do first is find the right coach, find the right system and then plug in the quarterback. There's an order to this situation that needs to be followed. I have no problems with David Carr, but I don't think he would be a good fit with this present staff and system. I'm not sure any quarterback would.
Chris, Sydney, Australia: I am a Ravens fan that migrated to Australia and I try to keep up with my team. I've been to Super Bowl XXXV and been to many road games. My question is, how can a team with so many Pro Bowlers be so bad? Has the chemistry gone bad between the players? Is it the coaching staff? What is the owner thinking on doing to fix the problems?
Mike Preston: The Ravens have too many Pro Bowlers. They have major problems in the locker room, and it's about money. Ed Reed wants a new deal. Jamal Lewis wants a new deal. Ray Lewis wants a new deal. Everybody is looking for something. This team needs a few less chiefs, more indians. The chemistry started going bad around the middle of last season, and it hasn't been fixed. We would tell you what the owner thinks, but he doesn't talk to the media. If you see him around, ask him what he thinks and then give me a call. The owner should have stepped up to the plate after the fiasco in Detroit, and he needs to prepare to step up now.
Mike, New York: Aside from our obvious offensive struggles, our defense does not seem to be anywhere near its usual level of the past five years. On paper, we should be much better than how we have played. I thought Rex Ryan would be an improvement over Nolan's soft schemes. Is Rex Ryan to blame? How much longer can we stick with Kemo/Gregg? Which of our players need to be let go?
Mike Preston: Age is to blame. Ray Lewis, Peter Boulware and Chris McAlister are older now. They can't make the plays and dominate a game like they used to. Ryan, though, needs to clear up things on coverages. The Ravens have had quite a few busted ones this season. The Ravens, for whatever reason, have decided not to spend money on big name free agent defensive linemen in recent years. Kemo and Gregg have developed and played well, but you need a stud in the middle. Neither fits that classification. As for the offseason, the Ravens need to clean house. Players that will most likely go are Deion Sanders, Dale Carter and Orlando Brown. The Ravens will also have to make decisions on Mike Flynn, Edwin Mulitalo, Randy Hymes, Chester Taylor and Jamal Lewis.
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