On offensive

ON THE RAVENS

New coaches impress upon offense that there's no time to slow down

Minicamp priorities

April 19, 2008|By MIKE PRESTON

As far as the Ravens are concerned, the emphasis has changed from the retirement of quarterback Steve McNair to the pace and installation of a new offense.

Minicamps are about concepts and philosophy, and the Ravens were busy instilling them yesterday. Very busy.

New coach John Harbaugh has heard all the stories about how the Ravens' defense worked at a faster pace than the offense, so the offensive guys were setting their own tone yesterday.

The Ravens want the frenetic pace to carry over into the regular season.

"Cam Cameron half-jokingly implied that we should get to the ball faster than our own defense, or any defense we face," said Derrick Mason, the Ravens' veteran wide receiver, referring to the team's new offensive coordinator. "We want to be different than what this offense has been stereotyped the past 10 years."

The Ravens' defense has always had a stronger work ethic and a nastier demeanor than the offense, dating to the early days when the team moved from Cleveland to Baltimore in 1995.

Back then, safeties Eric Turner and Stevon Moore would nail runners on the opening day of training camp, trying to set a tone for the season. Pro Bowl linebacker Ray Lewis has maintained the tradition.

But yesterday - and it was only Day Two of Minicamp, when legs are still fresh - you could tell the offensive players had gotten the message. They jumped from drill to drill. There wasn't much time for walking.

"When we get out here, we're going drill to drill to drill," said Kyle Boller, who is battling second-year player Troy Smith for the starting quarterback position. "There is not any wasted time. I have a meeting here in 20 minutes, and I have to throw in a lunch between that. The tempo has been a lot different.

"In the meetings, everything is very detailed. You've got to know it. They are not going to spoon-feed it to you. You've got to keep learning it. I think that's important. It makes guys be accountable, and that's what we need for our offense to be successful."

The minicamp is a time for learning for both players and coaches. They have to adjust to each other as well as to a new scheme and attitude.

The Ravens will run the West Coast offense, and the basic philosophy will apply. It's an offense predicated on short passes, which can be just as good as running plays.

But the Ravens know they will attack, instead of being attacked.

"Cam challenged us today to make the defense be the second best at running to the ball," Smith said. "We're going to do that, and the offense is going to hustle and make plays."

The Ravens will use the no-huddle offense as part of their package. It won't be used just in the last two minutes of a game.

The Ravens will use it just like Indianapolis and New England. They want to attack and not allow opposing defenses to get their situational personnel on the field. Many teams have used this tactic against the Ravens.

This is where the loss of McNair might hurt. As a 13-year veteran, he had seen just about every defensive coverage in the NFL.

He was good at reading and finding the check-down receivers. Boller has always been too robotic and struggled inside the opponents' 20-yard line, where he has to make quicker decisions.

Smith is in only his second year.

"I think they're doing a nice job," Harbaugh said of his two quarterbacks. "I think there's a lot on their plates right now. The thing I've been impressed with, and we talked about this last night, is how they have been able to operate the offense.

"That's because we've done a lot of no-huddle drills. Cam calls them thunder drills. They've operated very quickly, and I think they've pressured our defense a little bit."

Right now, that's all that can be expected. But Smith says there is more to come.

"The thing I most appreciate about Cam is he's going to be a man at all times," Smith said. "When I say that, there are going to be things he's going to say to you that you're going to have to take into consideration, and there are also things you're going to say to him that's he's going to be willing to listen to. Not to say that anybody last year - Rick Neuheisel, Jedd Fisch, Brian Billick - that they didn't listen to us because they did. This year it's more of an emphasis to let us know that our opinion counts."

mike.preston@baltsun.com

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