Baltimore Sun columnist Mike Preston checks in for an offseason edition of his Q&A, answering your questions about the Ravens.


You often talk about the watered-down level of the players because of the 32 teams that now operate in the NFL. what is the watered-down effect on coordinators and head coaches? Are there enough qualified coaches to go around in the NFL? -- John D.

John, I reference the watered-down NFL on several levels: players, officiating, and quality of the game. All three factors affect the overall product.

In my opinion, there are not 32 quality starting quarterbacks in the NFL.

My evidence is the number of quarterbacks drafted in the first two rounds every year. Teams are constantly searching for the next Johnny Unitas, Joe Montana, Peyton Manning or Aaron Rodgers. More often than not, they end up with Kyle Boller, Akili Smith, and Brady Quinn.

To take it a step further, in this pass-happy version of the NFL, how many true No. 1 receivers do you have? Maybe 20. The Ravens don't have a true No. 1 receiver. And are there 20 true lockdown cornerbacks to cover those No. 1 receivers? Absolutely not!

There are plenty of quality players in the NFL. There are very few great players, which leads to a watered-down product.

The officiating has gotten worse as the rules have gotten more complex. In other words, there is too much room for personal opinion with officiating. A good, hard, clean hit draws a flag, even though the tackle was legal, because it looks too violent. If you asked every official in the NFL to define pass interference, you would get a different answer from each individual.

The quality of the game suffers when you put those two factors together. There are some games that are just hard to watch when the talent level does not exist or the officials throw a flag every other play.

However, to answer your question, there is a major difference between the talent level of players on the field and the talent level of the people on the sidelines. There are so many different systems and people who use them that there will always be quality coaches available.

Also, you have more players staying in the game after their playing career is over to coach.

I don’t want to make it sound as if I think coaching is easier, but I think it is easier to find good coaching than good players.


Do you think the Ravens are partial to University of Alabama players because of Ozzie Newsome's connection, or do you think the Alabama players we drafted really were the best players available in the draft at that time? -- Rocco

Rocco, read the whole Q&A.

When you say that Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome is partial to Alabama players, you make it sound like the Ravens only draft from the Crimson Tide.

Look at the history. Since 1996, the Ravens have drafted six players from Alabama. That is one selection every three years. If Newsome shows preferential treatment to anything, it is his draft board. The Ravens stick to their board better than any other team in the NFL.


With veterans like Haloti Ngata and Terrell Suggs beginning to show signs of slowing down, would the Ravens consider shifting to a 4-3 defense in a couple years? -- RaelRaven, Delmar

The Ravens have always played defense based on the strength of the individual players on the team.

The quality of defensive coaches brought in by the Ravens, as asked by John D. above, has been outstanding. They have groomed successors, stashed them as wide receiver coaches, and always restocked when the staff is pillaged by other teams.

The Ravens have shown that, if they need to use a 4-3, 3-4, 46, or organized chaos, they will. It is just quality coaching, and getting the most out of the talent you have.