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Offensive Assault Emerging


The process started in the spring of 2008, as Ravens offensive coordinator Cam Cameron and quarterback Joe Flacco came together for offseason minicamps ready to install a new version of offense in Baltimore.

Fast forward a year and a half, and the Ravens are one of the hottest offensive juggernauts in the NFL.  With the struggling Cleveland Browns coming to M&T Bank Stadium on Sunday, the Ravens took advantage of their golden opportunity to continue to stretch their legs. 

After leading the Ravens to a 34-3 win over the Browns Sunday, it is clear that Cameron and Flacco are comfortable with opening the playbook to its fullest extent. 

Baltimore totaled 479 total yards, with Flacco completing 25 of 35 passes for a career-high 342 yards and one touchdown.  It was the second-highest total of combined yardage in franchise history and a further sign of the young quarterback's development.

Such production is spurring a shift in the way the Ravens – typically thought of as a defense-dominated squad – are regarded among their peers.

"I think it's a balanced team," said Cleveland Browns head coach Eric Mangini prior to the game.  "They can obviously create significant big plays defensively, which they have done time and time again.  They've got a ton of playmakers defensively, and then offensively, the fact that they can run the ball as consistently and as effectively as they do with [Ray] Rice and [Willis] McGahee. [They] can make some really big plays in the passing game. I think Flacco has improved significantly from Year One to Year Two, not that he wasn't a good player last year, but his growth is apparent. With the offensive line, there's a lot of talent there, and adding Matt Birk and his experience, I think, has really helped that group gel.

"I've always respected Cam [Cameron] as an offensive coordinator. I think he's innovative. I think he's creative. I think he creates challenges for defenses by the things that he does game-planning each week."

Cameron seemed to have officially handed the reins to Flacco on Oct. 19, 2008. 

Since that day, a game against the Miami Dolphins, the Ravens have scored an average of 28.9 points per game, which ranks second in the league behind the New Orleans Saints 32.0-point average. 

Baltimore closed out its season with a 9-2 record, and the current 3-0 campaign has obviously been prolific, as well. 

Flacco, for one, attributes the production to an advanced comfort level.

"I don't know why it's been that way since Miami, but I know that I feel good about what we are all doing," Flacco said.  "The offense as a unit is working together.  We're all on the same page."

The same can be said for Flacco's targets. 

"It's Cam feeling more comfortable with us as a unit, and Joe feeling more comfortable with the weapons he has out there," said wideout Derrick Mason, who led all receivers with five catches for 118 yards and a 72-yard touchdown.  "He's not just going to look at one guy. He knows that he has two, three or four guys he could potentially hit that could make a play.

"Once you have a bunch of guys out there making plays for you, the red zone gets a little bit easier, because now Cam can call a bunch of plays for a bunch of guys and not just for one specific person."

True to form, Flacco has found seven different receivers for six or more completions this year.  Against the Browns, Flacco, hit Mason for the long bomb, wideout Mark Clayton and tight end Todd Heap for 20-yard completions, and receiver Kelley Washington for a 19-yarder.

His mastery also showed when he audibled from a pass play to an end-around to Willis McGahee that resulted in a 15-yard touchdown after noticing a blitz.

Flacco may have broken out in his sophomore year opener with a career-high 43 completions for 307 passing yards and three scores on the Kansas City Chiefs, but he is not showing any signs of letting up.

While Flacco's 6-foot-6 frame, athleticism and rocket arm are large parts of that production, Cameron cites Flacco's work ethic as the main reason for his success.

The second-year quarterback is a tireless student of the game that can be seen at the team's training facility even on his days off, sometimes getting to work watching film before the coaches arrive.

"I've never seen a quarterback in this system be any different," Cameron said.  "That's a credit to Joe, but that's a credit to the men in this system. Troy Smith isn't far behind. You know what, Troy may already be in here, he just hasn't told anybody. John Beck is lurking. That's what we believe, and we think that's critical.

"Our guys have bought in big time, but I think they've had those habits. Joe has been in the habit of being that guy. We're not asking Joe to do anything he hasn't done." 

What happens to the Ravens' offense moving forward remains to be seen, but Sunday was a chance to continue changing Baltimore's perception across the league.

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