Q&A with The Sun's Mike Preston

October 14, 2004|By Mike Preston | Mike Preston,Baltimoresun.com Staff

Columnist answers readers' questions about the Ravens

Mike Preston has been with The Sun since 1983. Prior to becoming a columnist, he covered the Baltimore Ravens for four years. Preston is a native of Essex and a graduate of Towson State University, where he played football.

James, Cumberland: Scott Mitchell, Stoney Case, Tony Banks, Elvis Grbac, Chris Redman. How can a quarterback guru miss every time? The one exception was Trent Dilfer, who helped win a Super Bowl. Brian Billick quickly traded him away. Why should we now believe that the latest flop, Kyle Boller, will ever help us to a Super Bowl. When Billick made up his mind the day he drafted Boller, that Kyle would be his starting quarterback, he threw away the Super Bowl last year. He has done that again this year. Do you think Dan Snyder would be foolish enough to trade Joe Gibbs for Brian Billick?

Mike Preston: The Redskins would love to have Brian Billick replace Joe Gibbs at this point. One of Billick's weaknesses is judging talent, and it has become apparent that the Ravens wasted too high of a pick (a No. 1) to draft Boller. At this point of his career, the best case scenario is that Boller might become an average quarterback at best in the NFL. As for Billick, he still brings a lot to the table as a head coach. This might sound unfair because of Gibbs' past record, but he has something to prove in Washington because some believe the game has passed him by. Personally, it's way too early to tell because the Redskins as well as Gibbs are still in the transition stage.

Zack, Severna Park: During the offseason, Coach Billick brought in Jim Fassell to act as Kyle's mentor - to groom him into the next John Elway. After a full month of play, I fail to see any difference. Is Boller just not listening to Fassell or is it that he simply can't help the kid?

Mike Preston: There have been some modest improvements. Jim Fassell has improved Boller's footwork, and he is a little bit more comfortable in the pocket. The key, which most people don't understand, is that Boller is inaccurate, and you can't teach accuracy at this level. You either have it or you don't. Boller doesn't have it.

Kevin, Baltimore: Since the wide receiver position is our weakest position, how come we don't make a trade for any WR. What about Keenan McCardell? How are we going to meet expectations with no passing attack? Seriously, how come we aren't doing anything to fix this problem?

Mike Preston: There are few trades in the NFL anymore. As for Keenan McCardell, Tampa Bay has not been willing to entertain any offers for him. The Ravens are in the same situation they were a year ago. If the passing game doesn't improve and they don't get the right matchups, they'll make an early exit from the playoffs again. The good news is that their passing game can't get any worse (ranked dead last in the league), but the bad news is it won't get much better either. Billick keeps saying it will improve once tight end Todd Heap, receiver Travis Taylor and center Mike Flynn are healthy, but they were all healthy last year when the Ravens had a poor passing game.

Robert, Owings Mills: The media & fans are always calling for Matt Cavanaugh's job. How come no one ever says David Shaw should be fired? Shaw has been the Receivers/Quarterbacks since the 2002 season. Notice a correlation here? The WRs and QBs have played awful since at least 2002, he is the coaching bond. He can't coach those positions, why is he still in Baltimore?

Mike Preston: You're absolutely right. Both Matt Cavanaugh and David Shaw should be held accountable. You can look at every other position on the team and find starters who were no-names coming out of college. That's a sign of good drafting and good coaching. But the Ravens have yet to develop a quarterback or a receiver. If the passing game doesn't improve, Billick might be forced to address this situation even though he has a clause in his contract that allows him to hire and fire his own coaches.

Matt, Ann Arbor, Mich.: As opposed to being just a critic, can you offer some solutions to the Ravens passing woes relying on the personnel they have in place?

Mike Preston: The Ravens have to spice up their routs. They need to implement more pick plays and crossing routes. They need to flood zones with receivers. If you think you lack talent, then you have to be creative. In five games this year, the Ravens have run one screen, and that was to Heap. Why not put returner/receiver/running back B.J. Sams in the game, and throw him a screen? He has explosiveness and might turn something into nothing. Right now, the Ravens passing game is vanilla, partly because of Boller's inexperience, and partly because of the ineptness of those designing and calling the plays.

Bill, Alexandria, Va.: We have not heard much lately about what progress, if any, Peter Boulware is making in his rehab. When can he reasonably be expected to return and how limited will his effectiveness be?

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