Bill, Salisbury: Will the Ravens win a game this year? I mean, seriously - will they win a game? The O-line is bad, the QBs are worse, and Jamal Lewis can't get out of his own way.
Mike Preston: Bill, I'm sure the Ravens will win a game, maybe two, maybe more. You sound so pessimistic, so jaded, so cynical. You ought to write a football column for The Sun. Actually, I confess, Bill is my double. Love him to death. But don't be unfaithful. According to head coach Brian Billick, there is "sheer love" working out of an 0-2 hole, so I say hallelujah, raise the roof and pass the plate. 1-15 will bring ecstasy. 0-16 will put you in heaven.
Sometimes Brian says the craziest stuff. It might be time for some new speech writers. Anyway, I'm going out right now and tear a knee ligament because I want to experience the sheer love of rehabilitation and coming back.
Can I get an Amen?
Jim, Towson: OK Mike, when will Brian Billick start admitting that we have serious problems? Of course he isn't going to come out and say it, but there are some big concerns with this team. At this point the play on the field is disturbing and the denial from the coaching staff is even more disturbing.
Mike Preston: The coaching staff isn't in denial, they're in mourning. The only thing Billick can do now is not panic which would indicate desperation. He needs to start working some of those young linemen like OT Adam Terry and C/G Jason Brown into the lineup if the line continues to struggle, and buy receiver Clarence Moore a one way ticket to the bench. He'll have to modify his offense with more sprint and roll outs so his quarterback doesn't get killed, and come up with some trick plays because this team can't sustain drives. The Ravens will eventually need to rebuild their offensive line, and still need to find a quarterback and nickel back of the future.
Other than that Jim, and running back Jamal Lewis and safety Ed Reed sulking because they haven't received contract extensions, there aren't many problems.
Problems? What problems?
Joe, Annapolis: How can so many "experts" pick the Ravens to be good this year and yet they still stink? Easy, because Brian Billick can't prepare a team loaded with talent, and can't prepare a sound game plan to save his life. I hate to say it, but the Ravens' Super Bowl win was a fluke. The planets were aligned just right and a defense like that won't come around too often. How long until Steve Bisciotti gives this guy the boot? Talent is there. Preparation and game plan are not. That is coaching, or lack of it in this case. Time to bring some respect back to Baltimore football. and Camp Cream Puff isn't gonna get us there.
Mike Preston: Now Joe, is that any way to treat the head coach?
Seriously, regardless of his style or demeanor, you've got to give Billick ample time, and the benefit of the doubt. He has won a lot of games here in Baltimore, including a Super Bowl, and he deserves time to fix any current problems. If this team continues to play like this at the end of the season, it's time to make changes.
David, Franklin, Pa.: I've just about seen enough. What gives with this offense? How can it possibly be this bad with the players they have? Is it time to try other guys on the line? It seems to me that they just aren't opening holes for the running game at all, and their pass-blocking defeciencies are well known. This looks like it could be a long season already.
Mike Preston: No argument here. A day after training camp opened, I wrote that offensive and defensive line play would be the key to the season. During the draft in April, I suggested the Ravens take an offensive tackle in the first round. This unit never could pass block, but now they can't run block either. They've gotten old at once. People believe that you win Super Bowls with flashy quarterbacks, receivers, linebackers and cornerbacks, but you win games by dominating line play. There is nothing more demoralizing in sports than to have a team conduct a 14-play, smash-mouth drive, and you can't do anything about it. The Ravens went out this season and got flash - Derrick Mason and Mark Clayton - but they didn't get substance. The big guys win the games, not the pretty boys.
Eric, Harrisburg, Pa.: The Ravens offense is obviously in disarray. What changes can they make to the offensive line so they can salavage this season before it is a complete waste? Also, I never thought I would say this, but I can't wait for Kyle Boller to come back. This pathetic showing by the offense has made me realize it is not Boller's fault for the poor play recently, but the entire offense is to blame.
Mike Preston: I think you have been playing quarterback for the Ravens lately, and suffered a concussion. The whole offense isn't to blame. The Ravens have solid receivers, a Pro Bowl tight end and two good running backs, but they don't have an offensive line or a quarterback. Monday afternoon, I was listening to talk radio and heard this guy mentioning my name. He took pieces from a recent column and basically said I endorsed Anthony Wright. Wrong. He didn't mention the rest of the column where I wrote that neither one was substantially better than the other, and neither was the long term answer at quarterback.
Clearly Wright outplayed Boller in training camp, and more than just a few players wanted Wright in the lineup. Several defensive coordinators around the league preferred playing against Boller than Wright because he is more consistent and has a better arm. But both aren't very good. It's like the worse of two evils. To even compare Boller with Wright is an indictment of Boller because Wright came into the league as a free agent and Boller was a first round draft pick.
Wright just makes the offense better. But whether it's Boller, Wright, Marino, Elway, Brady or Manning, they all are going to look bad with this offensive line. But I will leave you with this quote from former Raven Shannon Sharpe, the top free agent acquisition in Ravens history: "I've got a better chance of winning the Kentucky Derby on the back of a donkey than [the Ravens] have of winning the Super Bowl with Kyle Boller."
Now playing quarterback for the Ravens, Eric, of Harrisburg...
Bacon, Baltimore: It looks like Camp Cream Puff is rearing it's ugly head, especially on the offensive line. I have never seen a group more putrid. What is the remedy? Do I actually need to start watching cooking shows on Sunday afternoons?
Mike Preston: Welcome back. All I can say is at least I got paid to watch the Tennessee game. At least you could turn it off. If you get bored watching the Ravens' offense, then use your imagination and pretend it's Comedy Central. That offense is amusing. You got one quarterback (Boller) who can't throw and another one that can't stand up (Wright). Four of the five linemen can't run, but still might be faster than the starting nickel back (Deion Sanders). My words of encouragement are that things can only get better.
By the way, are those cooking shows on cable or satellite?
Chad, Baltimore: I am a native Baltimorean living in Atlanta, and a big Ravens fan. I can't help but wonder why they won't run Jamal and Chester on first down in the third quarter when we are only behind two scores? Wright proceeded to throw, give or take, nine consecutive incomplete passes on three critical drives that all resulted in 3-and-outs. I know Jamal was shut down early, but his trademark is breaking tackles for big gains late in games and opening up the offense thereafter.
Mike Preston: It makes no difference if the Ravens are down by 14 or 3 at the half, they always come out firing. Forget Jamal Lewis. Forget Chester Taylor. Anyone seen fullback Alan Ricard? That's basically been the script under Billick whenever the Ravens fall behind. Maybe you might want to ask Billick that personally on his TV show, radio show, Pen Pal segment, Gospel hour, Reality TV show.
Cal, Seattle: Surveying the catastrophe of the Washington Huskies program, what is your honest assessment of Rick Neuheisel as QB coach? Is he making a positive impact?
Mike Preston: Rick walks like Billick, talks like Billick, seems like a decent guy and plays one mean guitar from what I've heard. But if getting another head coaching job is based on what he has done with Boller and Wright, he might not get another one. He may not get another job. Period. Seriously, Rick is a good guy. He works hard and he'll resurface as a head coach again, and do a pretty good job.
Jay, Everett, Wash.: Obviously we have problems with pass protection, but my question has to do with defense. I thought we would have a stellar year on defense, we do not. Is Rex Ryan the right man for the job?
Mike Preston: I never thought the Ravens were going to have a stellar defense. I thought it would be solid, good, but not great. Ray Lewis's skills are declining, and the Ravens don't have any studs in the front seven. Outside linebacker Terrell Suggs can rush the passer, but also can disappear in games. It takes time to learn to play the 46 defense. Despite not scoring any points, which has been a trademark of the defense over the years, the Ravens have played well enough to win but they haven't gotten any support from the offense.
Cliff, Kansas City, Mo.: Last week you mentioned it was too soon to jump off the Bay Bridge. Have you changed your mind? It's going to be a long season!
Mike Preston: It's not time yet, but the motor is running and I called my lawyer to make sure everything was in order.
Is it true that you die before you hit the water?