Behind Enemy Lines: The Baltimore Ravens

In this exclusive game preview, Doug Farrar of Seahawks.NET asks five questions of Aaron Wilson of Ravens Insider about the Baltimore team that Seattle will face on Sunday. What's been the primary reason behind the Ravens' current losing streak, how secure is Brian Billick's future with the team, and how is that Ben Grubbs kid working out?

Doug Farrar, Seahawks.NET: Common perception is that the Ravens have always been hamstrung with subpar quarterback play - even in their Super Bowl year of 2000, there were great stretches of scoring drought. Is that perception entirely real, have there been any real breaks in the quarterback malaise, and do you think that either Kyle Boller or Troy Smith can pull the team out of it?

Aaron Wilson, Ravens Insider: The perception is reality with the lone exception of Steve McNair's solid campaign a year ago and Elvis Grbac in 2001 throwing for a lot of yards even though he was an enigmatic locker room figure. I think that Kyle Boller is strictly backup material, too erratic. I have some hopes for Troy Smith due to his mobility, poise and swagger, but I worry about his accuracy and inexperience. He's promising, though, and the Ravens are fairly intrigued by his potential. To bottom line it for you, their quarterback situation is a mess and they could be in the hunt for a quarterback in the first round.

DF: The Ravens have started as many as three rookie offensive linemen this year. How is that line holding up at the end of the season, and what are your thoughts about guard Ben Grubbs, who many Seattle fans would have loved to have seen in a Seahawks uniform?

AW: They are breaking down with the rookies hitting the wall. Marshal Yanda was bullied by Jason Taylor and Joey Porter last week. Jonathan Ogden, who's pondering retirement, remains a great, albeit declining player. Ben Grubbs has been extremely solid and looks to be an excellent starter for several years to come.

DF: On the other side of the line, the Ravens' formerly impenetrable front seven has taken some hits. Ray Lewis might be gone for the season, and the linebacker corps doesn't seem to have recovered from the loss of Adalius Thomas to New England, though Bart Scott is certainly a great player. Haloti Ngata is a great tackle as well, but is Baltimore's defense looking a rebuild in the face of the next couple of years?

AW: Ray Lewis plans to play as of now despite a dislocated finger that drew blood when the bone punctured the skin. Bart Scott has been up and down this year in trying to fulfill many of Thomas' old duties. Ngata is the real deal and Kelly Gregg is an inspirational nose guard. The problem is cornerback, no health with the starters Chris McAlister and Samari Rolle, and no depth behind them. Safeties Ed Reed and Dawan Landry have been trying to help out, but they can't rescue the scrubs the Ravens are playing outside.

DF: What have been the primary ingredients of Baltimore's current eight-game losing streak? How can a team go so quickly from 13-3 in 2006 to this?

AW: Turnovers, they went from first to worst in turnover margin, injuries to several Pro Bowl selections, including tight end Todd Heap, Steve McNair, McAlister and Trevor Pryce and penalties, ranking in the top 10 in that category. Bad play-calling from Brian Billick has plagued this team, too.

DF: Head coach Brian Billick seems to have the confidence of team owner Steve Bisciotti (at least, that's what we're reading), but is keeping Billick the right choice? Is he a great coach mired in personnel issues, or is he starting to lose the team?

AW: It's debatable, but Bisciotti seems unwilling to admit he made a mistake and eat the remaining $15 million on the contract. The personnel issues are plaguing him and older veterans do tune him out and are tired of his play-calling. That said, if Billick is willing to give up offensive coordinator duties and go along with whatever Ozzie Newsome wants, then he'll likely be back. I have it on good authority that he will.

DF: What must the Ravens do to end their losing streak against Seattle?

AW: They can't turn the football over. They have to get pressure on Matt Hasselbeck. Otherwise, he'll carve up this secondary like a Ruth's Chris steak. And they need to pound the football with Willis McGahee, their top offensive weapon.

Aaron Wilson covers the Baltimore Ravens for the Carroll County Times and the Annapolis Capital.



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