Harbaugh's plans sound good, but Ravens have to follow through

It's put up or shut up for team on coach's blueprint for improving offense

February 28, 2011|Mike Preston

Ravens coach John Harbaugh is saying the right things these days.

He is going to be more involved in the offense next season. He says he will be holding offensive coordinator Cam Cameron fully responsible, and wants an improved running game in 2011.

Last week at the NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis, Harbaugh said quarterback Joe Flacco, entering his fourth season, will have more responsibility in the offense, and the Ravens will add more short passing plays to quicken Flacco's release.

OK, we can all stand up and applaud. It all sounds good. But until we see it on the field, there is guarded optimism. Because, to borrow an old expression, talk is cheap.

This is the same song and dance from a year ago. Remember how the offense was supposed to be new and improved with the addition of receivers Anquan Boldin, Donte Stallworth and T.J.Houshmandzadeh?

And what did we get?

We got the same old, tired, stale passing game which consisted mostly of comeback and fade routs to the outside and few passes across the middle.

So until I see something different in 2011, the Ravens are just engaging in lip service again. It's time to deliver, put up or shut up.

The biggest change has to come in Cameron. As a person, he's a decent, honorable and hardworking man. But when it comes to designing plays, he's like a mad scientist who goes into the laboratory and cuts off all ties with the rest of civilization.

In three seasons in Baltimore, he has alienated the players and the other assistants. And now, he has to re-invent himself heading into next season.

Good luck.

Coaches have done it before, like Bill Cowher in Pittsburgh. But we've seen the other side here in Baltimore. His name was Brian Billick. Under orders from owner Steve Bisciotti in 2006, Billick became more personable and communicated better with the players, but returned to his old, cocky ways in 2007, which eventually led to his dismissal.

Cameron has had a strained relationship with Flacco for the past two seasons. At least then, the Ravens had Hue Jackson and Jim Zorn as the calming influence between the two.

Right now, there isn't anyone.

Last week, in another ringing endorsement of Flacco, Harbaugh indicated that the former Delaware quarterback would be given more leeway to check in and out of plays. Hopefully Flacco will have more responsibility like Ben Roethlisberger, and not like Tom Brady and Peyton Manning.

Brady and Manning run their own offenses because they have the arms to make every pass, and the outgoing personalities to match. In Pittsburgh, the Steelers want to run first, but have the option to open it up because of Roethlisberger.

That's the way it should be with Flacco. He hasn't proven yet that he can consistently make it through his progressions, and Cameron has been hesitant about allowing him to throw across the middle.

The quick passes Harbaugh has talked about would be an asset, but Flacco has a slow release, and the lack of bend in his knees makes him even slower. But I do like the Ravens' approach.

At least now, they are admitting some problems, unlike during the regular season when they kept saying "a win is a win." Back then, neither Harbaugh nor Cameron had an answer as to why Flacco, who prefers the shotgun, wasn't in it more, or why the Ravens didn't use more of the hurry-up offense.

Somehow, though, I think we'll see more of those this season. Harbaugh has been all over the radio airwaves the past two weeks talking about how the Ravens plan to improve their offense, and continuing to show his strong support for Cameron.

My radio brethren have been high-fiving and patting themselves on the back about this like it was the major scoop of the offseason.

Question: Did anyone think Harbaugh would say anything different than what he said shortly after the season?

During this time of year, there is always talk about the Ravens adding a big, fast wide receiver and how that would have a major impact on the passing game.

Yeah. Right.

There is no use following that logic anymore. I'm tired of hearing about how the Ravens will improve the offense, and refuse to get hyped up like last offseason.

We'll see when the regular season starts. That's when the talk stops, and the Ravens have to prove it on the field.


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