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Ravens Q&A with Mike Preston
B.K. in Pa.: Mike, since 2001, the Ravens offensive line has been average to below average. Why is this the case, and when do you think the Ravens will start to fix it?
Mike Preston: The Ravens got away with a sub-par offensive line the year they won the Super Bowl, and I think they believe they can do it again. The Ravens have invested money in buying offensive tackles, but have been cheap in signing quality guards. I always believe that you win with the biggest and the best guys on the interior lines. If your fat guys are better than the other team's fat guys, then you usually win. It's no secret. If Steve McNair continues to take a beating and then Kyle Boller gets knocked around, maybe general manager Ozzie Newsome will finally get the message. They knew they wanted McNair for some time, so there was no excuse for not signing a free agent or drafting a rookie lineman to protect him. I betcha McNair has been in Newsome's ear a couple of times since the season started about pass protection.
Art, Richmond, Va.: I know it's a road victory against a division opponent, but the Browns aren't very good. What should be made of the Ravens' performance?
Mike Preston: Nothing. The Ravens were absolutely lucky and should thank Cleveland coach Romeo Crennel for making that bonehead call to throw the ball on second down at the goal line in the final quarter. The Browns were without five starters, and down to their No. 3, No. 4 and No. 5 cornerbacks. If those guys could catch the ball, they would have picked off two to three McNair passes and returned them for touchdowns. Cleveland was on the verge of possibly blowing the Ravens out with players named Joshua Cribbs and Charlie Frye. The Ravens won against a bad team on the road. That's all you can say and all you can take away from the win.
Chris, Baltimore: Will McNair's gritty performance silence some of his critics? It wasn't pretty, but 2-0 on the road goes a long way to the playoffs. There's no way on earth we win this game with Boller at quarterback.
Mike Preston: Nothing will silence McNair's critics unless he takes the Ravens to the playoffs, because he is a shell of his former self. There are going to be games when he looks bad because his arm strength isn't what it once was. Baltimore fans want a quarterback. No, we crave a quarterback and an offense that can score points. When the Ravens mount a drive, any drive, the town goes nuts. We have a parade. We break out the champagne. We give the quarterback of that day the key to the city because we have been so offensively-deprived for years. McNair is what he is. He can make plays at times, and he gives the team confidence. If the games are close in the fourth quarter and McNair is still standing, then the Ravens have a chance of winning.
Thomas, Baltimore: First off, I love your columns. You keep it real. My question is, when will the coaching staff start calling some creative plays? Is it because McNair doesn't have a complete grasp on the offense? Personally, I don't understand why we don't get Mark Clayton the ball out in space more often.
Mike Preston: OK, jump on board, and let's beat the same dead horse we've been beating since 1999. The offensive system stinks. It's too vanilla. There is no creativity, no imagination. Over the years, we've replaced the quarterbacks, the receivers, the offensive linemen and the offensive coordinator. It's still unproductive. It's the same thing every year: great defense, good special teams and bad offense. It hasn't changed and it won't change. Some say there was a breakthrough Sunday because the Ravens scored 12 points in the fourth quarter. Give me a break. Remember what I just wrote? When the Ravens have offensive success, we have a parade. We break out the champagne. There is no point in complaining. It's Ravens football. It's so bad offensively, that we look for excuses to justify it like calling it "Ravens football" or "old-school football." Look for a catchy slogan to come out soon.
Bryan, Midlothian, Va.: What's your take on the Ravens' second-half comeback? Do you think they turned a corner, or was it just a case of Cleveland losing?
Mike Preston: It depends on each individual. If you drink the purple Kool-Aid, you say they turned the corner. If you're a realist, you know they must have been wearing a horseshoe, a rabbit's foot and had a luck charm in their pockets.
Josh, Bowie: How well do you think [Daniel] Wilcox is picking up Fassel's version of the H-Back role?
Mike Preston: There is an APB out for Wilcox.
J, Richmond, Va.: Why is the Ravens' offense still so predictable? Until the last couple drives of the game, it was as if the Browns defense knew what we were doing on every play.
Mike Preston: OK J, jump on board, and let's beat the same dead horse. ... I'm not going to go there. I'll just say that I've had problems with the play selection and clock management for years. Other than that, the Ravens are 3-0. They showed balance and the offense might be turning the corner. Hmm ... that purple stuff can quench a thirst.
Mike, Annandale, Va.: How long will the Ravens stay with Mike Flynn and Keydrick Vincent? It seemed the Browns, as do all other teams, blitzed successfully up the middle. When will we see Jason Brown replace one of them? Didn't we get in trouble last year by staying with the same offensive line too long?
Mike Preston: I think the Ravens will stay with the starting lineup as long as they don't lose games. Teams have been blitzing the Ravens up the middle for years, and there don't seem to be any adjustments. I'm not sure that any of the backups are better, but unless games start going into the loss column, there probably will be no changing of the guards, or center, either.
Tony, Baltimore: Should the Ravens be concerned about the production of Jamal Lewis?
Mike Preston: Not really. I think the Ravens had realistic expectations of Lewis, which is why they signed veteran Mike Anderson as a backup during the offseason. They were hoping he might bounce back to old form, which he hasn't, but Lewis is still effective. In a perfect world, the Ravens wanted a run-oriented attack led by Lewis, but they'll still pound away with Lewis, Anderson and Musa Smith.
Larry: Mike, I have no coaching experience, but tell me, why did Baltimore elect to pass rather than run on the final drive on second and third down.
Mike Preston: Even though Matt Stover is a great kicker, it was still a 52-yard field goal. I would have run on second down and thrown on third if needed. The Ravens definitely should have run more time off the clock. Oops. Imagine that. Another clock management issue ... that damn dead horse is back.