Open letter to the Ravens: Dig out the razzle-dazzle

November 24, 2009|By Mike Preston

Ravens offensive coordinator Cam Cameron needs to go back into his lab and become a mad scientist again.

A major reconstruction of this offense isn't needed, but he could jazz it up a little like last season when the Ravens were run-oriented but Cameron still kept defenses off base with imagination, a lot of formations and some trick plays.

Cameron and coach John Harbaugh might want to break out the game film from last year, and early this season. If they put it together, they might break out of their scoring rut.

The Ravens wanted to take their offense to another level in 2009, and they did for most of the first half of the season. But the Ravens are now having trouble manufacturing points, especially in the red zone.

"It's been like that for a few weeks now, so we have to really do something where we get out of that rut where we can come out of it offensively and score points like we had at the beginning of the year," Ravens tight end Todd Heap said.

Yep, it's time to reach back into that old bag of tricks.

The Ravens have become too predictable, an offensive show that has only three major players in running back Ray Rice, quarterback Joe Flacco and receiver Derrick Mason. The Big Three approach worked in Dallas when the Cowboys had Emmitt Smith, Troy Aikman and Michael Irvin, but the Ravens' trio is nowhere near as talented.

They're good enough to beat Cleveland, Kansas City and Denver, but not explosive enough to beat New England, Indianapolis or Dallas.

Because this city has been so starved for a quarterback, everyone had become caught up in Flaccomania, and we wanted him to become great, but too quickly. Now, we're all learning that he is still just a second-year quarterback learning what it takes to become successful in the NFL.

So, why not go back to see what has been successful?

A year ago, the Ravens used the threeheaded- monster approach at running back. They ran a lot of no-huddle. They went with an unbalanced line and had the Suggs or jumbo package.

They ran reverses and had backup quarterback Troy Smith on the field in the shotgun or as a third receiver. According to Harbaugh then, the Ravens wanted to attack on offense instead of being attacked.

Maybe this is the time to revert to that to jump-start the offense.

If you're a defensive coordinator gameplanning for the Ravens these days, there is nothing on this offense that is going to keep you awake at night. In games the Ravens have lost this season, the formula for success against them has been easy: If you play two-deep, take out Mason and control Rice, game over.

But in most of the games the Ravens won, seven or more receivers touched the ball. Heap was a weapon, and so were receivers Mason, Mark Clayton and Kelley Washington and running back Willis McGahee.

Skeptics might say the Ravens put up those numbers against poor defensive teams, but when did the Indianapolis Colts become the Pittsburgh Steelers of the 1970s? Against the Cleveland Browns a week ago, the Ravens scored one offensive touchdown. Shoot, Detroit quarterback Matt Stafford threw for five touchdowns and more than 400 yards against Cleveland on Sunday.

The Ravens aren't loaded with great receivers, but they can contribute and make an impact in a game if used properly. The Ravens need to start putting pressure on defenses again. Instead of letting opposing teams dictate terms in a two-deep look, the Ravens should challenge them with 16- to 22-yard passes over the middle, where this type of defense is vulnerable.

Opposing teams should be concerned when the Ravens go with four or five receivers. They should be worried when Smith lines up at quarterback or in the slot as Michael Vick does in Philadelphia. They should have to concentrate on stopping McGahee, or change personnel when the "Suggs package" comes in.

Cameron has to find a way to juice this offense and rejuvenate some of the players who are no longer involved. It's understandable why he stayed with Sunday's game plan for so long because it had been successful.

But in the NFL, it's all about adjustments. Sometimes it's better to move on, and, in this case, go backward to give the opposition some more to think about. The Ravens need to stay with the run but become more creative again.

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