Ravens Q&A with Mike Preston

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Baltimore Sun columnist Mike Preston answers a selection of reader questions about the Ravens.

Dave in Aberdeen: Mike, I've been patient with Cam Cameron for a long time now. I'm just at a loss; what is his strategy? He seems determined to force Joe Flacco on everyone even when we have arguably one of the best running backs in the league. I don't claim to be an expert, but shouldn't we be running the hell out of Ray Rice instead of hurling the ball downfield as if we are down by 14? He can break a long run anytime. Yet Cam keeps trying to make Joe happen. He is a good QB but why push it? Rice is our star. Isn't that obvious? What will it take to get a new offensive coordinator that knows how to use the talent we have? It's getting harder and harder to defend this guy. We should be dominating teams like Cleveland on both sides of the ball, but offensively we are making them look much better than they are (without Joe Haden!). Keep up the great writing and thanks for always being honest.

Mike Preston: Dave, in all honesty, Cameron is no different than most offensive coordinators in the NFL. When they have the foot on the throttle, they have a hard time pulling it off. There are times when Cameron outsmarts himself, but overall, he has done a good job this season.

They are running the no-huddle offense full-time for the first time, and the Ravens have been very productive. Flacco is playing extremely well and spreading the ball around. Rice still gets his number of touches as a receiver and runner, and there is nothing wrong with him having a light load early in the season so he can help carry the team late in the year. I wrote two weeks ago and still stand by it. If you look at Cameron’s body of work in Baltimore, especially in the post season, he has done well. If both he and Flacco had some receivers who could catch they’d probably been in a Super Bowl by now and not taking so much criticism. With the Ravens defense this season, I support Cameron’s decision to keep attacking.

Hopefully, he’ll be able to slow it down when needed.

Scott in N.C.: How do the Ravens stick with Cary Williams?  He gets picked on by every team for a reason.  He plays off, never looks for the ball and gets beat regularly.  What gives?  Can't they give him some help on his side or let Jimmy Smith get more PT?

Mike Preston: Well, the problem is that the NFL isn’t Major League Baseball. The Ravens just can’t go down on the farm and put a prospect in the lineup. For better or worse, they’re stuck with Williams and if Smith was better you can be assured he would be in the starting lineup. My problem with both players is that they aren’t physical at the point of attack. They don’t jam receivers at the line of scrimmage when they are pressing up. They just turn and run.

The Ravens have some other candidates on the roster, but not better than Williams or Smith. Sorry Scott, get used to it. I suggest that you not have any objects close to your TV when watching the Ravens play because they might end up in your set from frustration.

They are hard to watch.

Andrew in Highland: Is there anyone you think should be getting more snaps on D to help the pass rush?  Pees sent a lot of blitzes against the Browns, but even a lot of these seemed a beat late.  Any chance of this improving significantly over the year? 

Mike Preston: No. I suggest you go watch TV with Scott or hope science finds a way to clone a Rod Woodson soon.

Jeff in Parkville: Mike, is this the return of the Greg Mattison defense?  Why would the Ravens refuse to blitz a rookie QB playing on the road in the fourth quarter of a close game? The three-man rush reared its ugly head and nearly cost us the game.

Mike Preston: Actually Jeff, the Ravens blitzed the heck out of Weeden late in the game and that’s why the Browns struggled offensively. A lot of fans get frustrated with the Ravens pass rush and want them to blitz every play. That can’t and won’t happen. You have to mix and match in the NFL, have some balance as far as calling plays and schemes. Pees has done well in trying to manufacture pressure, but the Ravens don’t have the talent. This is now a defense that has been hit hard by players leaving, age and switching coordinators for several straight years.

Without injured outside linebacker Terrell Suggs, the Ravens don’t have a player who can consistently win one on one matchups or force a team to slide their protection toward him. Suggs was a bigger game changer than a lot of people thought.

LordBern: Another game, another botched end-around.  Can anyone tell me if the end-around play is ever successful for the Ravens? It always seems to end with a loss or even a fumble. Can we finally rip that play out of Cam's playbook?

Mike Preston: Actually, he had some success with it in the preseason and earlier in the regular season. But, it’s back to being a stinker again. Cameron might need to put it on the shelf for possibly two or three weeks.

Calvin in Tucson: Enjoy your writing.  Why do you think the Ravens’ front office passed on drafting Peter Konz from Wisconsin and Ben Jones from the University of Georgia?  Birk probably won't make it through the season and Gino Gradkowski is too small. I just can't figure out why we passed on these guys knowing we could need immediate help.

Mike Preston: It’s very easy to figure out Calvin. Apparently, the Ravens didn’t think they were worth taking or valuable enough. With Konz, there were some who said he wasn’t’ strong enough to play right away, but I probably would have taken him. You are correct, Birk is getting pushed around at times and Gradkowski isn’t big enough yet to be a consistent starter. Down the road, though, Gradkowski is going to do well. He is smart and has quick feet which allows him to work into the second level. As for Birk, I have my concerns about him as well but he is a gamer. He is going to play hard until the final whistle, even though that might not be enough at this point of  his career.

Sugarbear: Is it too early to start asking about Terrell Suggs’ progress on his Achilles?  Seriously, any word on if it’s realistic to get him back?

Mike Preston: Suggs has said he will return this season and I assume he will. I’ve known him a long time and he has never gone back on his word to me. It will take him some time to get back into playing shape, but he is going to be a dominant force again. It might ow happen this year, but definitely next season.

Sean Dunn: My question is can Ravens fans ever expect any type of meaningful contribution from Sergio Kindle? Thanks.

Mike Preston: Maybe he fools me, and I’m hoping that he does, but he doesn’t play like he did when he came out of Texas. He is too regimented, too stiff at times. He’ll be interesting to watch for the rest of the season, but I think this could be his last season in Baltimore.

JJ in Colonial Beach: Thanks for all of your great coverage of the Ravens over the years, Mr. Preston, when will you join the Ring of Honor? In all seriousness, Jamal Lewis finished his career with impressive numbers and one of the best single seasons in NFL history.  Does Jamal belong in the Hall of Fame?

Mike Preston: Jamal was a great back in Baltimore, but not in the class of an Earl Campbell, Jim Brown Barry Sanders or Walter Peyton. Those are some of the names I immediately think of when I hear about Hall of Fame running backs.

As for me joining the Ring of Honor, I’ll be next right after former Ravens head coach Brian Billick. Actually, we’ll go in as a pair.

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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