A fitting match

ON THE RAVENS

Ravens have the type of talent he needs to succeed

On Cam Cameron

January 25, 2008|By MIKE PRESTON

In the past two weeks, job offers poured in for former Ravens defensive coordinator Rex Ryan, which says something.

For one, Ryan is very good at what he does. Second, there is a shortage of good coaching in the NFL. That's why the Ravens' hiring of Cam Cameron as offensive coordinator was an excellent move.

Cameron had become a top target as offensive coordinator for a lot of head coaching prospects, including two who were involved in the Ravens' job search: Jason Garrett and Marty Schottenheimer. That tells you about the respect he has around the league.

With him on the sideline, the Ravens will have the offensive credibility they haven't had in years.

It will be impossible for Cameron, 46, to immediately turn the Ravens' offense into a high-scoring one like he built from 2002 through 2006 with the San Diego Chargers, but there's enough talent here for him to succeed.

The characteristics of a typical Cameron offense and the Ravens' current talent pool match up well. He likes short to intermediate passes, especially off play-action.

He'll throw in misdirection running plays like reverses and counters to keep defenses off balance. He demands ball security from quarterbacks or he'll put them on the bench. Are you listening, Steve McNair and Kyle Boller?

With the Ravens, Cameron might have to build his offense around running back Willis McGahee, who performed well enough last season to earn that role. The Ravens are young and athletic on the offensive line, so they should have no problem adjusting to a more versatile running game.

When Cameron was in San Diego, tight end Antonio Gates was the favorite target of quarterbacks Drew Brees and Philip Rivers because the Chargers didn't have legitimate deep threats at wide receiver. Well, neither do the Ravens, but if tight end Todd Heap can stay healthy, he could put up big numbers in 2008.

Overall, the comparisons are interesting. But what you see now might not be what you get in the future.

Cameron always has been creative. He had to be for his former boss, a control freak like Schottenheimer, to give him full autonomy over the offense.

In San Diego, Cameron was well respected by the players. He was straightforward. He's a workaholic. He expects his players to put in as many hours as he does. But according to one former Chargers coach, Cameron is loyal to his players, but once you betray that trust, he doesn't forget.

That might be considered a weakness. Another is that Cameron sometimes forgets to put the ball in the hands of his playmakers, as he did in the playoffs last season against the New England Patriots when he forgot about running back LaDainian Tomlinson in the second half.

We've seen that numerous times in Baltimore through the years, but this is a trade-off that should work out well for the Ravens and their fans.

Maybe we'll finally see good clock management and crossing routes. Maybe we'll see receivers flood zones or clearing out underneath. How about a pick play? The word is that Cameron loves to attack and at times has trouble slowing down.

But in San Diego, the Chargers set a torrid pace. San Diego led the league in scoring with 492 points in 2006, and was third and fifth, respectively, in scoring in 2004 and 2005. The Chargers averaged 365 yards a game in 2006.

Of course, the Chargers had Tomlinson, Gates, Brees and then Rivers. The Ravens don't have that kind of firepower, but they have much more than the 1-15 Miami Dolphins did this season, when first-year coach Cameron was fired.

It will be interesting to see what Cameron can do with McNair and Boller. Rivers just had a strong postseason, but he's no Peyton Manning or Tom Brady.

The Ravens will be receptive to Cameron. For years, they have privately and publicly complained about an offense that lacked creativity and was not an equal partner with the defense.

But this time, there is a good chance that perception will change. New coach John Harbaugh made his first hire a good one. Hopefully, it sets a tone for the Harbaugh era.

mike.preston@baltsun.com

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