Mission: Make it snappy

ON THE RAVENS

New coordinator is going for speed as he prepares offense

Cam Cameron

May 31, 2008|By MIKE PRESTON

There are times when it appears that new Ravens offensive coordinator Cam Cameron is being evasive about his plans, but he is in as much flux as some of the personnel he has been shuffling.

The move to hire Cameron was one of the most anticipated by the team, and hopefully he can improve an offense that has been one of the NFL's worst during the previous nine seasons.

Cameron has been busy trying to put it all together.

"Cam's philosophy, the whole thing is built around personnel," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. "I don't know if anybody's playbook could be thicker. They are learning at a fast tempo, but that's where they have to keep up."

One thing for sure is that the Ravens are going to use multiple sets and attack, instead of being attacked. The Ravens have run a lot of no-huddle and three-receiver sets. There is a huge game clock complete with running time in the background because the Ravens want their practice pace to be the same as their game pace.

"You have to create one pace," Cameron said. "You can't have a practice pace, and then a game pace, especially in the passing game. You can't run routes at a certain pace in practice, and then at another pace in a game. Everything has to be simulated at game speed."

According to Cameron, about 60 to 70 percent of the offense has been installed and little will be added until training camp begins in mid-July. Once the pads are on, decisions can be made, particularly on the offensive line.

"With the offensive line, we know where guys are going to be," Cameron said. "Do we know who the starting five are? No, not yet, but that's one of the advantages of having a young offensive line. They are more adaptive, and you can be a little more flexible in moving them around.

"Jared [Gaither] has done a nice job at left tackle. Ben Grubbs is a natural left guard, and there is an added bonus because he is left-handed. Jason Brown is a center, but it's nice having the flexibility to play him at guard. Mike Kracalik [tackle] has improved, and we've moved Marshal Yanda inside to guard, where he seems a natural. So, we're making progress."

The running game should have more flexibility. The Ravens once preferred the power game. But in the past two or three seasons, they have drafted smaller but faster offensive linemen.

If Cameron is adjusting to the personnel, a change might be required.

"Over last year, we definitely have to improve," Grubbs said. "We have different plays in, a lot more running plays, a lot more misdirections."

Both wide receivers, Derrick Mason and Mark Clayton, have practiced in the passing camp, but third-year receiver Demetrius Williams is missing time with an Achilles' tendon injury.

The Ravens are in desperate need of a vertical threat and are hoping again that Williams fills that void. Another area in which Cameron and Harbaugh are demanding improvement is yards after the catch. Last year, the Ravens averaged 9.7 yards a catch.

"That includes blocking by the other receivers," Cameron said. "If you don't have the football, you have to be a blocker. You have to block for your brother, so yards after the catch is more of a product of someone else blocking after making the catch."

Blocking seems to be a major point of emphasis for Cameron, and he probably has already stressed that to Pro Bowl tight end Todd Heap.

There was speculation that Cameron might use Heap like Cameron used Pro Bowl tight end Antonio Gates when they were together in San Diego.

"Both are excellent tight ends, but very different, and you can't do the same thing with guys who are different," Cameron said. "However, Todd is extremely bright; a lot of things he has done throughout the course of his career is from being moved around in different positions.

"But the one thing that makes a good tight end is that they don't forget that they are blockers first and receivers second. Todd realizes that."

Cameron gave no indication who had the lead in the quarterback derby among Kyle Boller, Troy Smith and Joe Flacco. Boller has more experience, Smith gets more respect from his fellow players and Flacco, despite being a rookie, has the best arm.

"All three all athletic and bring different skill sets to the position," Cameron said. "All three are tough. The bottom line is that we've got to develop the quarterback and skills positions, and it's going to take hours of work.

"It will all be worked out in training camp with the pads on. Right now, I can't tell you which of our groups [receivers, running backs, offensive line] is the strongest group."

In the past, Cameron has worked with Norv Turner, Marty Schottenheimer, Bo Schembechler and Sam Wyche.

Cameron said they all had one similar trait.

"Offensively, Norv had an impact on me," Cameron said. "Marty impacted me because he was a big-picture head coach. One common denominator they all had was that they all worked extremely hard, and they knew how to handle the cornerstones of success.

"This situation in Baltimore is different from other situations where I have gone. These guys have won, and still want to win. Rex Ryan is here, and there is still that carryover on defense. We want to have that same kind of excitement and energy with our offense."

mike.preston@baltsun.com

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