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Ravens Q&A with Mike Preston
Marc, Baltimore: Why is Dan Cody always inactive? I thought he was a steal in the second round, and now he never plays. Is he still a possible star?
Mike Preston: I believe there are few players that will become stars in this league, and most of them are not second-round draft picks. Because of the knee injury, Cody is still just a rookie despite being a second-year player. He has good potential and a strong work ethic, but he is one-dimensional. In college, he relied on speed to be a dominant player. In the NFL, he has to learn more moves and is in the process of adding them. It takes time. It's not unusual to see college players so limited.
Look at rookie defensive tackle Haloti Ngata. At Oregon, he physically manhandled the opposition. He relied on a lot of upper body strength. In the NFL, he has had to improve his technique, and work on using his bottom half. With Ngata, he was the first round pick and those players are expected to play right away. Also, the Ravens were in need of a starting tackle. When it's all said and done, I think Cody will become a solid player in the NFL.
Josh, Baltimore: What did you think of the penalties in this game? Is it a lack of discipline for the Ravens or did the refs call the game poorly?
Mike Preston: A lot of the penalties were legitimate. It's too early to say the penalties are from a lack of discipline. What you have to look at are the types of penalties. Are they illegal procedures or offsides? Are they for holding or for unsportsmanlike conduct? A year ago, when things started heading south for the team, you could tell there was a discipline problem. I would, though, investigate the right offensive tackle position. These guys have a history of illegal procedure going back to Orlando Brown, Ethan Brooks and now Tony Pashos. Brooks was so bad that he became a standard joke in the press box. A game wasn't official until Brooks jumped offsides. It must be something in the water.
Kevin, Perry Hall: Mike, a simple question: Should we be concerned with the play of Steve McNair? Is his inaccuracy a result of playing in a new system or declining skills?
Mike Preston: Yes. Read on for more answers about McNair (this is also a great way to make you read through all this damn stuff).
Bill, Salisbury: I'm not a pessimist, really, I'm not. But I'm concerned about the offense. What we've seen will get it done against Cleveland next week, but not the Bengals or the Steelers. How worried should we be about the offense's inability to create touchdowns, not just field goals?
Mike Preston: I'm treating it two ways, Bill. First of all, I'm concerned because there is not enough offense yet to be competitive with the top teams. And then again, I'm not that concerned because we've been seeing this same scenario every year since 1999. We have a good defense, solid special teams, sorry offense and another quarterback who is struggling. So, in 2006, I've learned to live with it. It is what it is, and it's probably not going to change. Sorry, Bill. If you want exciting, offensive football, turn on the Colts or Bengals.
Raving, Titusville, Fla.: What do you think the chances are for the Ravens to go undefeated heading into the bye week? As long as they stay healthy, I like their chances.
Mike Preston: They have a decent shot. Cleveland will be tough because it's a division game even though the Browns stink. San Diego will be a tough challenge, but I like the matchup of the Ravens defense against Chargers third-year quarterback Phillip Rivers. Advantage Ravens. At least the competition gets better from here on out. I have gotten tired of watching the Ravens play semi-pro teams the first two weeks (Tampa Bay is averaging 1.5 and Oakland 3 points per game). That's not parity, it's a joke.
Hans, Severna Park: What do you make of Jamal Lewis? I've been a fan of his since he came into the league, but I'm wondering about him this year. I firmly believe he's good enough to lead the league in rushing again as long as he can get 22-25 carries a game, but what's keeping him from getting his 25 carries? Is it Brian Billick, or is it just that he isn't fully recovered from his injuries? He's shown flashes of being back to his old self, but he hasn't really played a full game yet. What's your opinion, and do you agree with my assessment of his abilities?
Mike Preston: The Ravens are holding him to about 20 carries per game because of the hip flexor injury. They want the injury to heal and they want a healthy Lewis for the second half of the season. It's a good move early in the season because the Ravens have two other good backups in Musa Smith and Mike Anderson. Lewis will never be the back that he once was, and I have a hard time imagining him leading the league in rushing with this offensive line. But overall, he has been effective and I think he will get better as the season goes on.
Brian, Cockeysville: It seems like McNair's accuracy woes are at least partially a product of not having time to get set and having to throw off his back foot because of pressure up the gut. Why no screens? Why no quick slants? Perhaps Fassel needs to play a little Madden '07 because there are ways to burn teams for rushing blitzers up the middle.
Mike Preston: Brian, is your last name Billick? Are you offering suggestions because you can no longer call the plays? Or, are you calling the plays? Good and valid points Mr. B. The Ravens did nothing to slow down the Raiders blitz, and they have those screens and slants in the playbook. Derrick Mason is pretty good at slant ins, and I'd really like to see Mark Clayton catch a couple of quick hitters over the middle, or some hitches on the outside to see if he could break a couple. I'll hand your suggestions over to Big Jim Fassel. If I make these suggestions, he might use them.
P.S. See you at practice tomorrow, Brian.
Chris, Baltimore: Even though McNair had "Bolleresque" numbers on Sunday, the defense seemed to play harder with a lead then when they do when the other team has the lead. How much has McNair meant to the defense?
Mike Preston: With McNair, the Ravens always think he can make a play or two to win the game. With Boller, they always think he can make a play or two to cost them the game.
Chris, Hagerstown: Mike, The NFL is a "What-have-you-done-lately" type of league. That being said, what would the columnists be saying about "your man Kyle" if he had performed the way that McNair did Sunday. The Ravens will struggle later this year if McNair does not get better. After two games, I give him a D-. Look forward to your thoughts and comments.
Mike Preston: Chris and Chris. You're starting trouble. I didn't want to mention "My Man" Kyle's name, but I have to answer your question. The first game I gave McNair a C+. He would have gotten a C, but he threw a late touchdown pass. Against Oakland, I gave him a D. So, we're on the same page. Now, so far, here's the differences between McNair and "My Man" Kyle. McNair has better pocket awareness and anyone can see that this team plays with more confidence with McNair in the lineup. As far as accuracy, there isn't much difference. Boller threw balls to the opposition, McNair throws them in the dirt. With that said, you expected McNair to have a slow start. The Ravens signed him late, and he is learning a new offense. Regardless of if he has been around since Moses, it takes time to learn where your receivers are going to be. Basically, McNair gets a free pass up until the midseason. As of right now, he is struggling but the Ravens are 2-0.
Ryan, Pigtown: Why did the Ravens withdraw their challenge on the possible fumble in the 4th quarter? I thought the league adjusted the rule this year so that plays could be reviewed if the whistle was inadvertently blown.
Mike Preston: Honestly, I don't know. My theory is that Billick was as bored as the rest of us, and wanted to get the hell out of there, too. He didn't want to waste another five minutes reviewing the play.
Murtuza, Chicago, Ill.: I was really unhappy with the offense against the Raiders. How come McNair isn't going downfield with his passes? Is it because he has no time?
Mike Preston: It's a combination of things. Until he proves otherwise, I haven't seen the arm strength to lead me to believe he can throw the intermediate and long passes consistently. The Ravens also run a West Coast offense which features a short passing attack. Finally, he had no time Sunday. He got smacked around pretty good. In general, it was not a good day for the offense.