Sun columnist Mike Preston answers selected questions every Tuesday during the NFL season.
Michael, New Orleans: Is the injury to Musa Smith more than a one-year injury? Possibly career threatening?
Mike Preston: It might be more than a year before he is 100 percent. You're dealing with a player only in his second year, and it's hard to predict how he will respond to an injury this serious. Smith is a pretty tough kid, a competitor. He showed resiliency in coming back from a knee injury last season, so you should expect the same work ethic in rehab this time around.
Sean, Columbia: How do you think the injuries to Musa and Jamal will affect the team?
Mike Preston: With Lewis and Chester Taylor as the two top running backs, the Ravens had the luxury of taking their time to develop Smith. He was making progress, and this will definitely be a setback. Also, Smith was a key performer on special teams. Lewis is expected to undergo more examinations Tuesday. If he can't play Sunday, look for the Ravens to throw more with quarterback Kyle Boller. He was expected to throw more against New England anyway because the Ravens will have to take more chances. Their best chance, though, is still running Lewis, controlling the clock, keeping Patriots quarterback Tom Brady off the field and the crowd out of the game.
Neal, New York: The consistent hallmarks of the Ravens franchise over the past 4 or 5 years seem to be good defense and good drafting. How much of the Ravens continued defensive success can we attribute to simply drafting the right players, and how much is good coaching and schemes?
Mike Preston: The coach, scheme and drafting have been first-rate, unparalleled in success. They've drafted players like Peter Boulware, Ray Lewis, Chris McAlister, Ed Reed and Terrell Suggs while signing unknown players like Kelly Gregg and Marques Douglas. You draft players to fit the scheme, and speed has always been one of the team's biggest assets. You can always tell about the success when other teams steal your coaches. The Ravens have lost Marvin Lewis, Jack Del Rio and Donnie Henderson, and defensive coordinator Mike Nolan and defensive line coach Rex Ryan are next in line to get promotions from other teams, or within the organization. As for drafting, there aren't many better in the front office than Ozzie Newsome and Phil Savage. They are the heart of this franchise.
Joe, Glen Burnie: Todd Heap has been out almost the full season with a "sprained" ankle! I find it hard to believe it's just a sprain. What are the Ravens up to by understating what has to be a much more serious injury than a sprain?
Mike Preston: Heap probably could play with the addition of pain killers, but he is much too young to take such a risk so early in his career. He'll wait until he is 100 percent. High ankle sprains are unpredictable. I don't suspect the Ravens are hiding anything. They have one of the league's most respected trainers in Bill Tessendorf.
Mark, Baltimore: Two or three weeks ago you said Kyle Boller would never be more than an "average" QB. Would you care to change that assessment?
Mike Preston: No.
John, Niskayuna, N.Y.: Mike, I'm writing from upstate New York, and The Sun online is my source for staying connected with the Ravens. Is it possible Jamal Lewis isn't getting the yards because the O-line is missing Mike Flynn more than is realized?
Mike Preston: I think the running game is struggling because the timing is off. Lewis leaves for two games, and then left offensive tackle Jonathan Ogden misses extensive time with a hamstring injury. Flynn was forced to play left guard after starter Edwin Mulitalo missed a lot of the Jets game with a toe injury. Terry Jones Jr., the designated blocking tight end, missed Sunday's game with an injury. The Ravens need to get everybody healthy, and get as many repetitions as possible. Then we could see a difference.
Andrew, Tampa, Fla. : Hey Mike, do you think that the reason that our defense is not as imposing as in 2000 is because of the weakness of the defensive line? It seemed like back then, the opposing quaterback was always being hasseled by Sam Adams, Rob Burnett, Michael McCrary and the Goose. Do you think we would be a better defense if we added a defensive lineman and switched back to a 4-3?