Questions for Preston

December 28, 2007|By MIKE PRESTON

Why is the Ravens' offensive line so bad? There is constant pressure on the quarterback and no holes for the running back. I thought this group was supposed to be talented. What's been the difference from last year? Tony The major difference has been the inexperience. At times this season, the Ravens' offensive line has started three rookies and, in some cases, used a second-year player in Chris Chester. Physically, they aren't ready for the grind of an entire NFL season. A year ago, most of these guys finished the regular season two or three weeks earlier and were preparing for bowl games. The kids are tired. In cases where you have veterans such as center Mike Flynn and left tackle Jonathan Ogden, they know when it's time to shut it down because they have nothing to play for. Overall, the future looks bright for this group, but it's going to take another year or two.

Assess quarterback Troy Smith's debut as a starter in the NFL. Tom Smith is no better than what I saw in training camp and the preseason. He has average arm strength but already has more quarterback awareness than Kyle Boller. There was nothing there except his leadership skills to make me believe he was the quarterback of the future. But just like those young offensive linemen, he's been through a tough grind in his first NFL season. People tend to forget these rookies haven't had much time off since the summer before their senior seasons. Hopefully, he gets another shot Sunday, and then we'll see what happens next year.

Who are some names out there that would be a good fit for the Ravens to hire to take over the offense? Mike Andy Reid if he gets fired in Philadelphia, as well as Eagles offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg. Scott Linehan's name was being tossed around, but it appears the St. Louis Rams are going to bring him back as coach. Former New Orleans Saints assistant coach Mike Sheppard would be a candidate. The Ravens keep putting the spin out there that there are no worthy candidates, saying they would like to retain the current group to ensure continuity. That's bull. If they get out there, make the phone calls, do the interviews and use all their contacts, they can find a good offensive coordinator or a replacement for Brian Billick if necessary. After nine years of the same old offense, a lot of people are tired of hearing the same old excuses. What if the Ravens stepped up to the plate and forced a change? It's interesting that in his contract, Billick has a say over hiring coaches. If owner Steve Bisciotti pushed him, I wonder whether Billick would cave in to his demands or resign.

Do you think linebacker Antwan Barnes can start nextseason, and what is the latest on Terrell Suggs' contract status? Are the Ravens considering using the franchise tag? Staci I hear Terrell Suggs wants Dwight Freeney-type money, but he certainly doesn't have Freeney-type statistics, especially this year. The word is that the Ravens are prepared to slap the franchise tag on Suggs because they believe he is the best at his position in the game. As for Barnes, he plays extremely hard and can bring the heat as a pass rusher. Even if he doesn't get a sack, he makes the quarterback move. He needs a good year in the weight room because he is small by NFL standards. But once he hits the weights, he is going to be a good one. Do you expect Bisciotti to force Billick to turn the offense over to someone else in the offseason? Ryan Anybody seen Bisciotti? Isn't he playing golf in Saudi Arabia?

In all honesty, I have no idea what this team is going to do about Billick. I don't know whether they are going to fire him or make him change his offensive staff. Rumors are rampant, but something has to be done, because the Billick act and his offense have gotten old. The fans are tired of it, and so are the players. It's frustrating to see fans leaving the game at halftime because they know the Ravens can't mount a comeback.

But as of last night, there was an APB out on Bisciotti.

Has Bart Scott been a disappointment this season? His numbers have dropped, and I never hear his name on the broadcast anymore. Anna Bart had an average season and didn't build on the reputation he earned last season. The Ravens had him drop more into coverage this season, and that's not his strength. I think Bart needs to get into the weight room and gain more upper-body strength, and then he will become more of a complete linebacker. I also think he needs to focus more instead of talking so much, because he got away from his game.

Overall, I think he is young and talented enough to still become one of the best in the game. I haven't lost confidence in him. As a matter of fact, I think he'll come back bigger and better next season, because he doesn't like to lose.

Sun columnist Mike Preston answers readers' questions each week at baltimoresun.com/prestonqa.

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