Attack has gotten a face-lift, but it could use some more work

October 28, 2008|By Jamison Hensley | Jamison Hensley,jamison.hensley@baltsun.com

When the Ravens travel for the next three weeks, they'll be packing something extra.

Coach John Harbaugh said the "Suggs Package" - the team's two-quarterback alignment that captured everyone's attention in Sunday's 29-10 victory over the Oakland Raiders - will be a "viable part" of the offense for the rest of the season.

"We could see using that package every game," Harbaugh said at yesterday's news conference. "People playing against us are going to have to be prepared for it every week. We're just scratching the surface of the things that we have in."

Under the direction of offensive coordinator Cam Cameron, the Ravens put quarterbacks Joe Flacco and Troy Smith on the field at the same time five times, producing a total of 65 yards.

Only once did the Ravens throw out of this package, when Smith floated a pass to Flacco for a 43-yard connection.

Asked whether using Flacco as a receiver increased the chances of injury, Harbaugh said, "I think it's worth it."

When the Ravens played the Miami Dolphins' "Wildcat" offense - which splits out Chad Pennington as a receiver - Harbaugh said they tried to throw the Dolphins quarterback into the Gatorade on the sideline.

"Joe has got to understand that when you line up as a wide receiver, you're fair game," Harbaugh said, "and you're going to have to protect yourself out there and be a football player."

Harbaugh apparently doesn't want to stifle the unpredictability of the Ravens' offense.

Two games ago in Miami, the Ravens went exclusively with a no-huddle offense on the road. On Sunday against Oakland, Smith ran the option once and defensive tackle Haloti Ngata lined up as a tight end on the right side twice.

These wrinkles seem to have jump-started the offense, which gained more than 350 total yards in consecutive weeks for the first time this season. In their past two games, the Ravens have had six scoring drives of more than 60 yards.

Flacco won't put a limit on Cameron's imagination.

"Cam comes up with all kinds of stuff," Flacco said. "I don't know what he's going to come up with. But we're growing as an offense. Who knows what we'll see?"

Harbaugh revealed that the Ravens have practiced with defensive players lining up at receiver.

"Maybe they'll see it or maybe they won't," Harbaugh said while keeping his best poker face. "There's a lot of other things that we're practicing that we're going to show as time goes on. We think we're creative. We think we have a chance to be an exciting offense."

Here are some suggestions for the Ravens' offense going forward:

Want to see less

* Flacco rolling to his right. : Every time he is on the run, it sparks flashbacks of the Tennessee Titans game, in which he threw a couple of interceptions. Flacco just doesn't seem to have the same touch when he is on the move. When throwing to the right sideline this season, he has a quarterback rating of 39.4, his lowest of any area.

* The no-huddle offense. : The idea is great; the results have not been lately. The Ravens went no-huddle 21 times in Miami and gained just 79 yards (3.8-yard average). They mustered only 11 yards in four plays without a huddle Sunday. With three straight road games, it's time to huddle up.

Just the right amount

* The Suggs Package. : The pass to Flacco might have been too much in a blowout, but the Ravens should use their two-quarterback alignment five to 10 times a game. Just like Miami's Wildcat, the key is to have it evolve. Switch it up by using Troy Smith as the receiver or have Flacco run the option (as he did in Indianapolis). NFL defenses are too smart for a one-trick formation.

* Ray Rice's involvement. : With Rice having the hot hand Sunday, the knee-jerk reaction is to boost the rookie running back's touches. But this is a long season, and giving him the ball 10 times a game will keep him fresh. It's critical the Ravens get the ball to Rice in the flats a couple of times a game, whether on a screen or swing pass. He is showing flashes of perhaps being another Brian Westbrook.

Want to see more

* Throw the ball to Todd Heap. : A couple of weeks ago, Harbaugh said he expected to get the former Pro Bowl tight end more involved. That has not happened (five catches in his past two games), continuing a surprising trend for the one-time playmaker. The Ravens did try a long pass to Heap on Sunday. He ran a great route, but Flacco threw it low. This is the first time in Heap's eight-year career that he doesn't have a touchdown in his first seven games of a season.

* Haloti Ngata on offense. : The 345-pound defensive tackle delivered a key block on Willis McGahee's touchdown run Sunday. Now it's time to move the big guy into the backfield. He is so light on his feet for his size that it would be fun to see him as a lead blocker or taking the ball into the end zone himself. It has been a long time since "fun" could be used in the same breath as the Ravens' offense.

hey, jamison!

Each week, Baltimore Sun reporter Jamison Hensley will answer fans' questions about the Ravens. To submit a question, e-mail sports@baltsun.com. Provide your name and phone number so we can verify the e-mail.

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