Cameron goes deep in opening playbook

First-year coordinator shows imagination with several calls

October 27, 2008|By Ken Murray | Ken Murray,ken.murray@baltsun.com

One week after he banished demons in Miami, offensive coordinator Cam Cameron exorcised the ghosts in the Ravens' play-calling closet.

Predictable? Conservative? Ineffective?

No, thank you.

Cameron dusted off his Troy Smith package at M&T Bank Stadium yesterday with dazzling results. He had the 2006 Heisman Trophy winner at Ohio State tossing a devilish option pitch to Ray Rice for 21 yards and a tantalizing pass to quarterback Joe Flacco for 43 more.

Using two quarterbacks in the same backfield produced 75 yards on four plays on which Smith kept the ball, pitched it or threw it, leading to 13 points in a 29-10 win over the Oakland Raiders.

For an offense that has been hurt by turnovers, it was a breath of fresh air.

"We want to use every guy that's active that we can," Cameron said, a week after the former Dolphins coach celebrated his return to Miami with a win. "We've told our guys, 'If you're active and there's something you can bring to the table to help us win, we're going to try to do that.' "

Just don't say Cameron has gimmicked up the offense.

"We're not going in trying to gimmick anybody; we're not going trying to trick anybody," he added. "We think anything we do gives us a better opportunity to win. We're not trying to keep anybody happy."

As if on cue - after Terrell Suggs' curiously timed plea for Smith's involvement - Smith showed up in the Ravens' backfield with Flacco five minutes into the game. He didn't stay long. A misunderstanding about having two radio helmets on offense caused the Ravens to use a timeout.

By the end of the quarter, Smith had rushed twice for 11 yards, setting the stage for the big plays that were to come.

"We're happy to have him back healthy," running back Ray Rice said. "Troy's a playmaker. The more weapons we can have on offense, the better we'll be."

Smith was elevated to the No. 2 quarterback before last week's game after a severe bout with a tonsil infection. Cameron and coach John Harbaugh said the package created for him had been in the works before Suggs called for Smith.

The floating pass to Flacco that set up a third-quarter field goal was Smith's only pass of the game. But there's more to come.

"Hue Jackson [quarterbacks coach] and Cam Cameron do an incredible job with putting us in situations to make plays," Smith said. "Obviously their countless hours of film study have been beneficial for this team. So we just want to continue to grow up, not take any steps back, and continue to win games."

In his short time running the offense, Cameron has used the talent on hand. Three starting-caliber tackles? Use them all in an unbalanced line. Three running backs with different skills? Find the right situation.

Rice surfaced as a multidimensional threat against Oakland. He averaged 8 yards a rush on eight carries, caught three passes for 37 yards and returned two kickoffs for 54 yards. He converted two big third-down plays with a 9-yard run and a 21-yard catch and lost a touchdown catch in the fourth quarter to a penalty.

"He's an ascending player, a growing player," Cameron said. "I think he took his biggest step the previous week in practice. He learned [after] he missed some cuts in the game. This week he had his best week in practice, and it showed up."

Said Rice: "I felt like a football player. You work hard all week for it, and the hard work pays off. We grind throughout the week."

Cameron introduced another wrinkle to his offense when he inserted defensive tackle Haloti Ngata into the goal-line offense as a tight end. Willis McGahee cut inside Ngata's block for a 1-yard touchdown run in the second quarter.

"When we are at practice, we see the same things, and we see where our offense is going," linebacker Ray Lewis said. "It's kind of exciting when you see a new flavor."

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