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Cameron, Ravens Mixing It Up


With so many Ravens being utilized out of their listed positions Sunday, fans would have thought they were watching Rex Ryan's versatile and playmaking defense move the football against the Oakland Raiders.

Instead, that was Cam Cameron's offensive unit jumping out to a 19-point lead in the first half, using never-seen formations to befuddle the Raiders in a 29-10 Baltimore victory.

Backup quarterback Troy Smith gained yards rushing up the middle, execued a perfect option toss to running back Ray Rice and even threw a perfect 43-yard bomb to Joe Flacco.

Flacco, meanwhile, showed his skills by running a naked bootleg for a 12-yard touchdown and hitting Demetrius Williams for a 70-yard score. And of course, there was the finger-tip catch that has dominated Monday water-cooler conversations for Ravens fans.

But, the Ravens had more in store for Oakland. Baltimore placed 340-pound defensive tackle Haloti Ngata at tight end for two devastating blocks, the second of which sprung Willis McGahee for a 1-yard touchdown plunge.

McGahee and Ray Rice even split out wide to get involved in the passing attack.

The multi-purpose mentality that had previously been so prevalent on defense is now evident on the other side of the football.

"We want to use every guy who is active that we can," Cameron said after the game. "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.'"

The Ravens gained 75 yards the four times Smith touched the football. He posted three rushing attempts for 13 yards, pitched to Rice for another 19 and hit his target in Flacco.

Baltimore produced 13 points on those drives, and head coach John Harbaugh thinks the Ravens have only begun to show what they've been working on since offseason minicamps.

While the public might be surprised with the innovative play-calling from Cameron, not many were caught off-guard in team headquarters.

"I haven't heard anybody being all excited about it or saying that's something that's new to us," Harbaugh said in his Monday press conference. "The guys have seen it, really, from the first mini-camp on. They saw the package in there and they saw us practicing it all week, so I don't think they are surprised in any way.

"There are a lot of things we're practicing that we are going to show as times goes on. We think we're creative. We think we have a chance to be an exciting offense, and we think we've been that. Sometimes it works; sometimes it doesn't."

The Ravens realized they had something special when Flacco and Smith, along with Kyle Boller, were battling for the starting quarterback spot over the summer.

Boller was eventually placed on Injured Reserve after shoulder surgery, but Flacco and Smith emerged as both having first-string ability. Cameron experimented with having two quarterbacks on the field at the same time, and plays were drawn up for Baltimore's system.

But in late August, Smith was diagnosed with a tonsil infection that spread to his lungs, and the idea was shelved until he recovered.

"It wasn't so much the idea of the two quarterbacks concept, though that was part of it, and we worked on that in the mini-camps a lot," Harbaugh said. "It was just part of our offense. Joe's been running the same plays that you saw Troy run, so I think it's part of our offense.

"We don't have an offense for Troy, an offense for Joe, a two-quarterback offense, or anything like that. It's not really a package in that sense. We can run those same plays out of our normal personnel group with Troy as the quarterback or Joe as the quarterback."

Harbaugh admitted that the imaginative plays could show up again – and perhaps often – this season, which can ultimately affect the way an opponent practices for the Ravens.

"We could see using that package every game," he explained. "The people who are preparing to play against us are going to have to be prepared for it every week, and we're just scratching the surface of the things we have in. That's going to be a viable part of our offense all the way through."

Another wrinkle that fans have already seen is left guard Ben Grubbs playing on the goal-line defense. Also, it might not be out of the question to see a defensive back take the place of a receiver in the future.

"He's scouring our whole football team," Harbaugh stated of Cameron. "We've had all of our defensive guys on offense lining up at wide-receiver before. I guess the 'cat's out of the bag' for our opponents. But we've got a package. We've had those defensive players over there working on offense, so there's more where this comes from, and it comes from Cam.

"Maybe they'll see it, maybe they won't, but he's amazingly creative in terms of matching personnel to scheme."

One thing is certain: The players are enjoying the unpredictability the Ravens' coaches have brought to the offense.

"Cam comes up with all kinds of stuff," Flacco noted after Sunday's win. "I don't know what he's going to come up with. But we're growing as an offense, and we're only going to do these things if it gives us an advantage to win.

"Who knows what we'll see? But it was a lot of fun today, and I think the guys did a great job."

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