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Ravens Q&A; with Jamison Hensley

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Chuck G., Severn: Mr. Hensley, I live in a house divided. My wife and are the consummate Ravens fans: at all the home games, tailgating, beads, jerseys, grill (charcoal, no gas), etc.. You get the picutre. We've been married 21 wonderful years but have come to somewhat of an impasse. I believe you can be our "Dr. Phil." My wife has not cared for Kyle Boller since he arrived here. She considers him a lost first-round draft pick, not something the Ravens do on a regular occasion. She says sit him, trade him, waive him, just get him out.

I, on the other hand, am the loyalist who will probably be the last person to jump off his bandwagon. Now here's where you come in. Can he lead us to the promised land? Does he need to go? Please look into your purple-hazed crystal ball and save our (my wife and my) season. We're having trouble discussing much else. She actually cut a vacation short to make sure we're at the Skins preseason game on Thursday to see if any light can shine on No. 7. I'll gladly jump off the wagon if that's what's called for. HELP! A woman scorned by a QB can make for a long fall for her husband.

Jamison Hensley: I think if you pressed the Ravens on this issue, they wouldn't even know what the season holds for Boller. If he continues to play like he has in the preseason, it's hard to believe he could last the entire season. If he reverts back to how he finished last season (average quarterbacking without making the big turnover), he could help them to the playoffs. I like Boller's athleticism and strong arm. The problem is he doesn't seem confident in the pocket. He locks onto receivers and throws too often into coverage. I believe the first four games of this season are very critical to Boller's future.

HW, Abingdon: Is the Ravens' poor pass protection a result of the new zone blocking scheme? They looked horrible vs. the Saints. Boller didn't have a chance to look bad.

Jamison Hensley: That may have been the worst pass protection I've ever seen from the Ravens. I think it was the result of simple mental and physical mistakes rather than any new scheme. The running backs -- especially Chester Taylor -- seemed more concerned about going out on passing routes rather than waiting to pick up an unblocked defender. And the line seemed a step slow, allowing their men to rip past them. Pass protection could be a constant problem all year, which means Boller better get used to the shotgun.

Steve, Austin, Texas: Even with the changes to upgrade our anemic passing game, we still see some of the same mistakes as before! Boller still looks off his primary receivers, doesn't protect the ball overthrows deep passes and struggles to make reads. The offensive line continues to struggle heavily with pass blocking not to mention tight ends and backs who are missing blocking assignments! We have a new coordinator with Fassel as well as a new QB coach with Neuheisel, so who's to blame? I know it's preseason but I don't see things changing a great deal as long as Billick and Boller are around. I respect them, (especially Billick) but unless we see a drastic change enough is enough! What do you think?

Jamison Hensley: There is definite disappointment that the new coaching staff hasn't showed any new wrinkles. But, Fassel has always excelled in the past by tailoring his scheme around his players. He's been limited with what he can do because Boller has struggled along with the pass protection. The coaches have tried to simplify the game plan as much as possible but they can't make the throws or the blocks. Ultimately, the lack of execution falls on the players.

Bob, Sterling, Va.: Year after year, the Ravens' offensive line play is very poor at protecting the quarterback. New people have been added but the problem remains. What can be done to protect Boller from being mauled every time he drops back to pass?

Jamison Hensley: Looking at Fassel's history, he has placed a priority on protecting the quarterback. Don't be surprised if he uses maximum protection, which means keeping seven blockers and sending just three receivers out on routes. The Ravens will also move Boller out of the pocket frequently as well as use a healthy dose of shotgun.

Charles, Baltimore: Why hasn't the offensive line and our receivers received the same level of criticism as Kyle Boller? Boller has spent the last three years on his back when he has tried to pass. Why is it that other NFL lines can pick up blitzes and other receivers can pick up on hot reads and the Ravens can't? Why can't our receivers run third-down routes that get beyond the 1st down marker? Why don't the Ravens pass routes flood zones and create mismatches like other NFL teams? Another thing, why does anyone punt directly to the punt return guy? Why can't they eliminate the potential big return by kicking to the sideline? Sorry about the rant, but these things bug me.

Jamison Hensley: I feel there has been criticism of the receivers dropping passes and the line missing blocks. But Boller receives more because that's the nature of the position. There have been times when receivers drop passes because of Boller doesn't place the ball exactly where it should be. And Boller needs to show he can make throws under pressure like an NFL quarterback.

As far as the punt coverage team, the Ravens were in the middle of the pack last season. They usually don't angle their punts unless they can pin teams inside the 20-yard line. Punter Dave Zastudil doesn't have a booming leg (a career 41-yard average), so aiming for the sideline would take more off his distance.

JAG, Arbutus: You will probably read this with incredulous eyes, but if the offensive line is so good at run-blocking, why doesn't it just use the run-blocking technique on pass plays? Our O-line seems to be able to move our opponent's D-line wherever they like on run plays. How can the same people be so good at one aspect of the game but be so bad at another? Please be as specific as you can be in your response.

Jamison Hensley: A big, hulking line is better at run blocking because they get a push off the line and are the aggressors. In pass blocking, there is more agility and footwork involved. The line is back-pedaling in pass protection rather than just mauling defenders in run blocking. The Ravens also have the benefit of two great cutback runners in Jamal Lewis and Chester Taylor. When the blocking fails and a hole isn't there, they can make yards on their own by breaking to the other side.

Ralph, Windsor Mill: In the three preseason games I notice that Boller and Wright are using the same snap count. The defenses of the 3 teams played seem to know the snap counts and were blowing up the Ravens' offensive line. The Saints use a quick count thoughout the game to offset our defense rushing and shifting defenses. It is just me seeing this?

Jamison Hensley: Honestly, yes. It's just you.

Steve, Lake City, Tenn.: With the preseason Chester Taylor is having, would it not be resonable for the Ravens to have both Chester and Jamal in the backfield at the same time in certain situations?

Jamison Hensley: The Ravens wouldn't use this a lot because fullback Alan Ricard is such a strong lead blocker and Jamal Lewis runs best in the I-formation. But it wouldn't surprise me if the Ravens experiment with both of them in the backfield at some point this season.

Cheyne, Baltimore: Isn't it logical to think with all the depth at RB with Chester Taylor and in the draft the Ravens could afford to let Jamal Lewis go and instead re-sign Ed Reed and draft a RB?

Jamison Hensley: The Ravens' history shows they prefer big backs. Remember they drafted Jamal Lewis with the fifth overall pick when they had Priest Holmes on the team. Their philosophy is that smaller backs won't hold up to the physical punishment of a 16-game season. That's why they'll let Taylor go this offseason and keep Lewis (either by the franchise tag or a new contract).

Bobby, Lakeland, Fla.: How bad can the Ravens be for Brian Billick to be fired?

Jamison Hensley: Billick's contract runs through 2007 so the Ravens would have to be "Cleveland Browns" bad for him to be on the hot seat. Last season was Billick's first underachieving one so he understandably has some leeway. But if the Ravens fail to live up to expectations this season and next, well ... your question would be a legitimate one.

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