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Q&A with Mike Preston Staff

Paul, Ontario, Canada: Who's our leader, Mike? And don't tell me it's Billick, Ozzie, Boller, Ray, Steve or Jim. They don't have one and you know it. Print the truth. Yeah, it hurts, all right.

Mike Preston: Well, if it ain't Billick, Ozzie, Boller, Ray, Steve or Jim, maybe it's Manny, Moe or Jack, or Moe, Larry and Curley. How about Jesse Jackson? If the national media can make him my leader, which I despise, then maybe I can make him yours.

The Ravens certainly have enough leaders on defense with Ray, not to be confused with Sugar or Charles, as the main leader. The defense will be fine. The problem is that they haven't and still don't have a leader on offense. Tackle Jonathan Ogden is not that kind of guy, and Jamal Lewis is quiet. Receiver Derrick Mason could become one if he becomes productive on the field. The bottom line is that your quarterback has to become a leader, and neither Kyle Boller nor Anthony Wright command that kind of respect. The Ravens haven't had an offensive leader since Shannon Sharpe.

Markus, Abingdon: Why is Clarence Moore a starter and Randy Hymes sitting on the bench? Moore is scared to death of getting hit and Hymes has great hands. Does Hymes run the wrong routes or something?

Mike Preston: One game into the season, and I would have Clarence Moore either on the bench, or on the sideline wearing a baseball cap backwards with a clipboard. He dropped passes in the preseason and it continued Sunday night. When it comes to going over the middle, he isn't even in the same zip code. Forget about the middle, he can't catch on the sidelines, either. Randy Hymes didn't exactly set the world on fire in training camp. The Ravens drafted Oklahoma receiver Mark Clayton with the first pick of the draft, so let's see the kid play. He has great hands, runs good routes, and can make yards after the catch. If not, then go to Randy Hymes. If not Hymes, bring back Justin Armour or Qadry Ismail. Shoot, Raymond Berry, if necessary. Just get someone who can hold onto the ball.

Alex, D.C.: With this terrible offense and confused defense do you see the Ravens in the Matt Leinart sweepstakes?

Mike Preston: Wow Alex, one game and you have the Ravens in the tank already. Despite how horrific, terrible, abysmal, inept, sorry, nasty and downright pathetic the offense was last night, the Ravens defense will be good enough to win a lot of games. If by some chance, they get a shot at USC's Leinart, if I were the kid, I would tell the Ravens no. Hell no. I ain't coming. This is the graveyard for quarterbacks. The Ravens are similar to last season. They're good enough to beat most teams, but have to find some playmakers on offense, especially a quarterback, to compete with the great ones. A few good offensive linemen wouldn't hurt either.

Cliff, Kansas City, Mo.: As a native Baltimorean and a Ravens fan it was painful to watch too many mistakes, missed field goals, an inept QB and obviously a sub-par Jamal Lewis. Is there hope this year, or is this team overrated?

Mike Preston: Another cliff jumper here. Guys, what gives? You've got to still smell the roses, sip the purple Kool-Aid. It's one game. Take a deep breath and repeat after me: It's just one game. There's 15 left, and Tennessee is up next. If the Ravens lose that one, well... But it's a long season. The defense will only get better, and the offense can't get much worse.

The Ravens will be in playoff contention again, there is little doubt about that. What really scares me was the play-calling Sunday. The Ravens were down only 3-0 at the half, and they open the third quarter with the ball at their own 49. But of the first 13 offensive plays, Jamal Lewis touches the ball only one time, and that's after the Colts already have a 17-0 lead. This looks just like last season when Matt Cavanaugh was calling the plays. Billick and Jim Fassel need to learn that they can't win depending on the arms of Boller or Wright.

Down 3-0, they should have kept pounding the ball with Lewis or Chester Taylor keeping the ball out of the hands of Manning. Not the Ravens. They want to throw the ball. Stupid. Regardless, it's still a long season. Anything can happen. Maybe Wright steps up his game. Maybe Matt Stover gets his groove back. But if the Ravens re-sign quarterback Stoney Case this week, we all should meet at the top of the Bay Bridge. Jump!!!

Steve, Edgewood: Announcer Joe Theismann wondered aloud in the first half whether the Ravens would have enough stamina coming back in the second half. You had reported during preseason that the starters had not played sufficient time together. Is this a team that will take four games into the regular season to get in football shape? If so, are we being shortsighted and should we be more aware of the 16-game schedule?

Mike Preston: Oh, you're referring to Camp Cream Puff, the easiest training camp in the NFL, possibly Pop Warner leagues, too. Don't get me started. Jamal Lewis looked a step slow and so did tight end Todd Heap. Deion Sanders looked slow and tired as well as Dale Carter. Guess what? They were all given time off in training camp. Practices were light, and this clearly was a team that needed a few more repetitions. I think the conditioning will improve as the season goes on, but hopefully it doesn't take four games. The Ravens needed more time in two-a-day practices. They didn't have to be in pads all the time, but they could have been in shorts and helmets running through plays, getting the timing down. Instead, a lot of free time was spent at home with their families or lounging around at Camp Cream Puff.

Jay, Tucson, Ariz.: Why were the Ravens so pass-heavy starting off the game? I know Jamal didn't get many touches in the preseason, but Chester Taylor showed tonight that he could have handled it as well.

Mike Preston: Actually, the Ravens ran the ball decently in the first quarter, but got away from that game plan in the third quarter. But, what else is new? The Ravens rely more on stats and percentages than on guts and instincts. There is usually a six to eight minute window in every game where it's won or lost. Last night for the Ravens, it came in the beginning of the third quarter. During the Ravens' first two series when Lewis or Taylor didn't touch the ball and the Ravens started passing, the Ravens had the ball for only about four minutes. Indianapolis scored twice in a seven-minute span surrounding that time to put the game away. The Ravens can't rely on Boller, Wright and an offensive line that can't pass block to win games. It's that simple.

Dave B., Severna Park: Is Anthony Wright the answer? He seemed to both make more plays and more mistakes. Are there other options to replace Kyle Boller? Would Billick dare bring Boller back after that?

Mike Preston: One quarterback plus another quarterback still doesn't equal one legitimate NFL quarterback. The Ravens are a team without a prime-time performer at the league's key position. Wright is more comfortable in the pocket than Boller, has better awareness and can throw the deep ball well. The players prefer Wright over Boller, but I wouldn't call Wright the answer, not long-term anyway. The mistake this team made a long time ago was not bringing in a veteran to teach and work with Boller. Now, they're going to pay for it.

Grant, Hunt Valley: Do you think that Brian Billick's light spring training and preseason workouts hurt the Ravens at the beginning of the year? We continually have disappointing Week 1 performances, particularly against the Browns last year that could be caused by a lack of game-time preparation.

Mike Preston: See my response to Steve in Edgewood. Maybe next year, instead of just one week of two-a-days, Billick should have one practice in the morning and then time for surfing and fishing in the afternoon. There's nothing like a little R&R at training camp.

Robert, Midlothian, Va.: Why does the Ravens offense lack imagination? The offense kills the defense with three-and-outs. The defense wore down in the second half.

Mike Preston: It's still the Billick system. It's basically the same mess we've seen over the years without a lot of changes from Fassel. As of last night, it can only get better. Right? Please?

Josh, Owings Mills: Is Jonathan Ogden beginning to decline?

Mike Preston: Of course, his skills have declined. He is still one of the best in the league, but the Ravens didn't help Ogden out much last night. They became predictable and pass-happy, allowing Colts defensive end Dwight Freeney to run straight up-field. The Ravens should have pounded the Colts, ran straight at them. Ogden could have blasted Freeney, possibly wearing him down. Instead, he wore Ogden down with his speed and spin moves. It has to be frustrating for the Ravens to not be able to use their size up front. Maybe the Ravens will get it one day. Just run the ball, and play to your strengths. By the start of the third quarter, the Ravens were playing to their weaknesses.

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