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Week 1: Ravens Q&A with Mike Preston
Matt, Perry Hall: What did you think of the play-calling at the end of the game?
Mike Preston: Before I begin to answer your question, I have one note for readers. I've heard I've been the subject in several chat room discussions. When I took a few weeks off this summer, there was speculation that I was fired. I got e-mails from people who were overjoyed because they thought I had taken a new job. I received phone calls from others wishing me farewell and hoping I never came back. To those people, those player-haters, I have only two words, "I'm baaack."
And it feels good. There is nothing like taunting and teasing people who don't like you for another season. Now, Matt, what was the question? Darn, I forgot. Maybe I should be fired?
Oh, the play-calling -- it stunk. It smelled bad on that third-and-one call with 9:32 left in the fourth quarter, and it really lit up the stadium during the series inside the 11-yard line at the end of the game.
Of course, some fans will say Steve McNair threw too high to Derrick Mason or that tight end Todd Heap got ripped off in the end zone. If, if, if... Billick should have taken all of the ifs out of the game. There is a three-to-four minute window in every game where a team has to take control. On the third-and-one, Billick should have run the ball. If he gets a first down, the Ravens run two or three more plays, possibly get a field goal, and then win the game.
Cincinnati was begging to give up. They were the tired boxer on the ropes trying to gasp for air and Billick gave them life back with the interception. Run the ball. Instead, Billick put the game in the hands of McNair during an off night, and in the hands of Kyle Boller, who hasn't had too many good days. Run, run, run.
But I've seen Billick do this for years, and it won't change. Getting a feel for the game is not one of his strengths. When the game is in doubt during the closing minutes, I want the Ravens' defense on the field, not an offense that has struggled to run a two-minute drill properly.
Andy, Ellicott City: What did you think about that offensive pass interference call on Heap at the end of the fourth quarter? He looked clean to me.
Mike Preston: It was about as trashy as the play-calling. I think the entire league including the officials were still in preseason mode. But with that said, you really can't complain about the officials. The Ravens had six turnovers. Six turnovers. Enough said.
Joshua, Armistead Gardens: Hi Mike. Do you ever see Boller becoming the battle-hardened starter for this club? Or will he be the veteran backup, who can step in and win games, like Charlie Batch? Thanks.
Mike Preston: Boller, the battle-hardened starter? Now, that's funny. Hee-hee. Ha, ha. Boller and battle-hardened? All right, time to take a few breaths... Boller is a capable backup who can come in and win games. With the right schedule, he can win a lot of games. I think Batch is a good quarterback and thought he should have started for the Steelers last season. And from what I saw in the preseason, Batch was just as good as Big Ben Roethlisberger. If I had to choose between Batch and Boller, it would be Batch. It's no contest.
Michael: Why do the Ravens trade for Willis McGahee, pay him a lot of money, but not use him on any third-and-one situations -- especially around the goal line in the fourth quarter?
Mike Preston: I think McGahee's contract is a tax write-off for owner Steve Bisciotti. Strangely enough, we've seen this before. Remember when we had to beat it into Billick's head about giving Jamal Lewis the ball. During the offseason and leading up to the first regular-season game, the Ravens make McGahee the center of their PR campaign, and then in crunch time, he becomes an afterthought. The $40 million man became the forgotten man.
Terry, Catonsville: McNair looks slow and sloppy. How much longer can we go with him?
Mike Preston: Hmmm... that's interesting. The Ravens win 13 games with McNair as their starting quarterback last season, and after one game, we're already asking questions about how long they should stick with him. I could see some people asking that question if the Ravens had a Brady Quinn or Matt Schaub behind him, possible full-time starters, but Boller can't manage a game like McNair.
It's way too early to panic, folks. If you're on the purple Kool-Aid, don't throw it out with the bath water yet. The Ravens lost ONE game. This is a good football team, and the Ravens have a lot of talent. McNair is still better than most quarterbacks in the league.
But I will let you in on a little secret, Terry. Check out McNair's eyes before the game. In the divisional playoff game against the Indianapolis Colts, and again Monday night against the Bengals, he looked totally lost. The lights were on, but nobody answered the door.
Mark: What is the status of the offensive line, especially with Jonathan Ogden's injury?
Mike Preston: The status of the offensive line is "developing." As I wrote earlier this season, the group is young and they should have been going live more with hitting instead of laying around in the beach chairs at Club Med (training camp). Now, they're just playing catchup, but overall I thought the group did a decent job Monday night considering their inexperience.
Jamie M., Parkville: Mike, why do the Ravens always appear flat in prime time?
Mike Preston: I don't think the Ravens were flat against the Bengals. They just made mistakes. The passion was there and they had a high energy level. It wasn't a good game to watch, but it was exciting, and extremely hard-hitting.
Bryan: Where was Mark Clayton on Monday night?
Mike Preston: Where were you? Just joking. Clayton played, but on a limited basis. He has been bothered by a leg injury and was questionable for the game. He'll be out there Sunday against the New York Jets.
Brad: I honestly think Billick and McNair topped themselves Monday night. Just like in the playoffs last year, the dynamic duo again cost the Ravens the game. Can we ever expect these two to win tough games with their decisions, rather than costing the team with poor decision-making? Is there any hope for greatness with these two at the helm?
Mike Preston: Billick has won a Super Bowl and McNair was inches away. The Ravens went 13-3 last year, so I would say there is a chance. But I also think the defense has to get the Ravens there again, like in 2000.
Dave, Pa.: How did you think Jarret Johnson played Monday? I don't recall hearing his name much.
Mike Preston: He played well, and I was pleasantly surprised. Not only did he stop the run to his side of the field, but he also pursued from the backside as well. I was also impressed with linebacker Bart Scott in the second half. He has stepped up and taken on many of the duties vacated by Adalius Thomas, now with the cheating New England Patriots.