Cameron's next task: spice up the passing game

Now that offensive coordinator is staying, his first task is clear

January 30, 2012|Mike Preston

Now that Cam Cameron has been appointed offensive coordinator by Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti and head coach John Harbaugh again, hopefully they demanded he tweak the passing game.

It needs more flavors than just vanilla.

There needs to be more creativity and more variety. If he adds a few wrinkles the Ravens could be more explosive next season and make it to the Super Bowl providing receivers catch the ball.

For the past four seasons, Cameron has suffered a lot of criticism from just about everybody in town, and a lot of it justified because he was determined to turn the Ravens into the Green Bay Packers or the New England Patriots, minus an Aaron Rodgers or Tom Brady.

But midway through this season and on the way to the AFC championship, Cameron figured out that running back Ray Rice had to touch the ball 25 to 35 times a game as a receiver or running back.

And unless he wants to go back to "Cam Under Fire" again, that structure and philosophy will be in place next season and for a few years to come.

So now, Cameron has to fix that passing game, which is so simple that it's boring. There has to be more to a passing tree or a passing game than button hooks, curls, comeback routs and chuck it up to Torrey Smith.

Through the years, the Ravens have run everything all the other teams are using like hitches, screens, crossing routes, rubs on the goal line and three receivers set to one side.

But they don't run those things consistently. They are either not daring enough or simply forget what is in their own play book, especially on the road.

"A lot of teams become more conservative on the road because of the crowd noise," said one head coach of an AFC team who asked not to be identified. "If you are on the road, a mistake can bring the crowd into the game. I don't know Baltimore's game plans, but when I watched them play against Tennessee, Jacksonville and Seattle, their passing game wasn't the same as the one they used at home."

That needs to change. Quarterback Joe Flacco is in his fifth season, and the Ravens have weapons. There is no reason for Smith, one of the fastest players in the game, not to touch the ball four or five times a game even on hitches or wide receiver screens, much like the Pittsburgh Steelers do with receiver Mike Wallace.

There are games when the Ravens use Rice as a wide receiver, and other times when they don't. Why not? Clearly, he presents matchup problems.

When you're watching Green Bay or New Orleans, you see these great, short to intermediate crossing routes and wonder why they don't use them here consistently in Baltimore. There are pick plays on the goal line to get guys wide open, but you rarely see players get that open for the Ravens.

For years, we've been hearing Ravens receivers can't get separation. It's the scheme. There is talent here. Both tight ends, Dennis Pitta and Ed Dickson, are good and young. Anquan Boldin can't get the separation he once could, but if Flacco puts the ball in the right spot he'll snatch it.

This offense just needs to be jazzed up a little with some sophistication. The running game could use a little face lift as well. Instead of the basic stretch right, stretch left running plays (yawn), where are the traps? Where were the counters and draws to slow the other team's front four like in the Houston playoff game? It's not just about the play calling, but the scheme.

These are not major wholesale changes needed. And certainly, the Ravens don't need to start throwing the ball all over the field like they did against Seattle. The team has settled on an identity, one advocated here for years, and they averaged 124.8 rushing and 213.9 passing yards a game.

Rice had more than 2,000 yards in offense last season and Flacco threw for 3,610 yards. He appeared to be more comfortable and accurate when the Ravens became more run oriented in the second half of the season.

But there is still room to improve, and if they can jazz the offense up a little, they'll be a lot better and more explosive.

And a lot less predictable.

mike.preston@baltsun.com

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