OWINGS MILLS – During the final minutes of the Baltimore Ravens' embarrassing, nightmarish loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars, quarterback Joe Flacco kept looking toward the sidelines awaiting the play call from embattled offensive coordinator Cam Cameron.
The delay caused by Cameron relaying signals to Flacco instead of the quarterback calling his own plays ate up precious time.
And Flacco acknowledged that the Ravens could accelerate the pace of their two-minute offense by him simply calling the plays at the line rather than having everything run through Cameron from the sideline.
"I guess there's probably truth to that," Flacco said. "It's just how quickly can I think on my feet and get the play out there. Yeah, there's probably truth to that, it's just a matter of how we want to do it."
Even though Flacco supposedly has the green light to call audibles or offer suggestions for the game plan, it doesn't seem like he has actually been granted significantly more responsibility over the direction of the offense in his fourth NFL season.
Cameron indicated that Flacco has the authority to change plays or influence the game plan, but he also suggested that the Ravens are still working toward that goal.
There still seems to be something of a disconnect, though, between the stated goals and what actually goes on with the offense.
"I think that's something you always want to work for," Cameron said. "Joe and I have talked about that. He knows this and understands this. He can call any play that he feels he needs to. He can suggest one at any time. He's made several suggestions this year.
"He knows when he suggests one, I call it. I just believe in that. I come from that kind of environment where the quarterback gets involved in the play-calling. He's had a significant amount of input, and I'd love for him to do that."
The Ravens' futility Monday night in a 12-7 upset loss was glaring: zero first downs for nearly the first 40 minutes of the game, 16 net yards by halftime for a new franchise-worst in a half and absolutely no scoring until there were two minutes remaining.
As the team moves on from that disaster, Cameron said he's encouraging Flacco to take on a greater role in shaping the offense.
"You always tell him, 'Hey, you got it,' " Cameron said. "The next thing you know, they need help. Sometimes what I've done with guys in the past, they look over, and sometimes they need a play. I said 'Don't be afraid. Don't let your pride get in the way if you need an idea. You need a call, all you got to do is press a button and you can talk to the guy instantly.' It's something that obviously can work."
Little worked in Jacksonville, though.
Flacco was overwhelmed by the Jaguars' suffocating, relentless defense. He was sacked three times, completing only 21 of 38 passes for 137 yards, one touchdown and an interception for a 61.0 passer rating.
And Pro Bowl running back Ray Rice rushed for a season-low 28 yards on eight carries, spending several minutes on the bench following a lost fumble even though he and the coaches insist he wasn't benched after his turnover.
That lack of involvement prompted star outside linebacker Terrell Suggs to say he was baffled by the game plan not utilizing Rice more. And Cameron said he agreed with that assessment.
"Bottom line is everything that has been said, there is some truth to it, there really is," Cameron said. "And I think we acknowledge that."
Plus, the wide receivers gained precious little separation as the Jaguars' press coverage, especially cornerback Rashean Mathis, clamped down on Flacco's downfield targets.
It was a perfect storm of failure against a fired-up defense.
Ravens coach John Harbaugh said Tuesday that the press coverage was an effective strategy against the passing game.
However, Cameron insisted that the receivers were open. If that's the case, then the pass protection was shoddy.
"If you look at the tape, there is separation," Cameron said. "It's a matter of us finding them. It's a matter of us having the time to find them. We've got guys open. There's times we had a guy open and didn't have time.
"We got people behind their secondary and didn't have time to get it to him. Maybe one time they didn't see the guy, but there was enough separation there to throw the football."
Out of the Ravens' 53 offensive plays in Jacksonville, they attempted to throw on 41 of them.
They only ran the football 12 times for 34 yards, abandoning the ground game as it yielded only 2.8 yards per carry.
Cameron expressed optimism at the Ravens' prospects of executing a turnaround.
Something needs to change.
While the Ravens rank first in total defense, the offense has now dropped to 20th in the league with a 330.3 average. They're 19th in passing offense, 17th in rushing offense and 24th in third-down conversions, a 32.9 percent success rate.
"Offensively, we've got to go to work," Cameron said. "I'm not wavering. We've just got to play better and execute better. Ray Rice has said it a number of times. When we take the fundamentals of this offense and execute it, it looks the way we want it to look.
"It looks aggressive. It looks like we know what we're doing. When we go out and don't execute, it looks like we weren't prepared for the game. We were prepared for this game, obviously not well enough."
Harbaugh has taken on an increased role with the offense this season, but little has changed in terms of the results.
"John has great perspective for me," Cameron said. "John knows our special teams, he knows our defense, and he knows our offense. He knows all three phases inside and out. It's a tremendous help."
This setback raises questions about whether the offense is ever going to be consistently successful with this group of coaches and players.
Since last season, the Ravens fired quarterbacks coach Jim Zorn and offensive line coach John Matsko, cut tight end Todd Heap and wide receiver Derrick Mason and added fullback Vonta Leach, wide receivers Torrey Smith and Lee Evans, offensive tackle Bryant McKinnie and center-guard Andre Gurode.
Despite the personnel changes and retaining Cameron after his status was debated internally by the organization, the offense isn't much better.
Now, they've reached another crossroads after six games.
"If you can't find a way to get better and move on, then you give yourself no chance to get it corrected," Cameron said. "That's what we have done. We have to get better. I have a ton of confidence in the guys in our room, the coaches and players.
"We have the kind of guys to make sure that we are going to do everything to see that that doesn't happen again. This building is a special place. We're all in this together."
Notebook: Ed Reed didn't practice due to neck stinger
By Aaron Wilson
OWINGS MILLS – Baltimore Ravens star free safety Ed Reed didn't practice Thursday due to a neck stinger suffered Monday night against the Jacksonville Jaguars.
It's likely only a precautionary measure for the NFL Defensive Player of the Year since he participated fully in practice Wednesday and complained of no pain during interviews prior to practice.
Ravens coach John Harbaugh downplayed the injury this week, pointing out that it's not on the same side as the nerve impingement that has bothered the All-Pro defensive back for the past few seasons.
"It's good," Reed said following the 12-7 road loss. "It's sore right now. It was just one of those moments you can't do anything about. I'll get it looked it. It feels great. They just wanted me to come out. I had to come out for one play, just testing my strength.
"If you've ever had a stinger, it's a bad feeling. I could have moved my arm. It just felt so bad. I wanted to make sure nothing else was going on. The guy got me pretty good, hit me from the left side."
Wide receiver Lee Evans (left ankle) and offensive guard Ben Grubbs (right turf toe) didn't practice again and aren't expected to play Sunday against the Arizona Cardinals.
Also not practicing: inside linebacker Dannell Ellerbe (hamstrings, groin) and rookie running back Anthony Allen (thigh).
Evans has missed the past four games and has caught only two passes for 45 yards since being acquired in a trade from the Buffalo Bills in exchange for a fourth-round draft pick.
"I'm not really going to speak to this week," Evans said. "I just know right now, it feels a lot better. As the week goes along, we'll determine what we need to determine. Really, it's about the long term, and I think everybody knows that and that when we come back, it's really go time.
"We can't really have any setbacks. Obviously, I'd like to be back as soon as possible, but that's probably not the smartest thing to do. The best thing to do is just to be as smart as we can with it, and when it's ready to go, we'll go."
It's unclear if Evans' potential return dates will be Nov. 6 against the Pittsburgh Steelers or subsequent games against the Seattle Seahawks and the Cincinnati Bengals.
Evans hasn't played since the Ravens' loss to the Tennessee Titans.
Evans said he's making some progress.
"I'm just feeling a little better, so it's just opening up opportunities to do more," Evans said. "That's just where we're at now. It's a lot better than it had been at any point really since the Pittsburgh game. So, that's positive. It's just kind of getting over this last little hump.
"We've made a ton of progress and it's just a little bit more to go. It's kind of like when you're trying to lose 20 pounds, the last five is the hardest. So right now, we're just trying to lose that last five."
However, he acknowledged that he's still experiencing some soreness.
"Yeah, a little bit, but it's not as great as it was," Evans said. "It's minimal. So that's positive. Hopefully within the next coming weeks, we can get out there and put this behind us."
The Ravens upgraded cornerback Chris Carr (left hamstring) to full participation after he was limited Wednesday.
And strong safety Tom Zbikowski participated fully, but still hasn't been cleared for contact yet after suffering a concussion against the New York Jets.
Cornerback Danny Gorrer was added to the injury report as limited with a thigh injury.
Reserve linebacker Prescott Burgess left practice to have his elbow wrapped, but isn't listed on the injury report.
Cardinals outside linebacker Joey Porter (knee) and safety Kerry Rhodes (foot) didn't practice while running back Beanie Wells (knee) and wide receiver Early Doucet (quadriceps) were limited after not practicing Wednesday.
HEAP LIMITED AGAIN: Hampered by a hamstring injury that has sidelined him for the past two games, Cardinals tight end Todd Heap is hoping he'll manage to return for Sunday's game against his old football team.
Cut by the Ravens for $4.6 million worth of salary-cap reasons and replaced by Ed Dickson and Dennis Pitta, Heap was in Baltimore for a decade.
Now, the former Arizona State star is looking to play a winning role for the one-win Cardinals as he plays for his hometown team.
Heap has been limited in practice for the past two days.
"I'm taking it day to day right now," Heap told Arizona reporters. "I'm hoping I'll be ready."
Heap has caught 13 passes for 150 yards in four games with two starts.
He wasn't expecting to be cut by the Ravens prior to training camp, but quickly signed a two-year, $6 million deal with the Cardinals.
"It's something that hit me out of left field," Heap said. "I didn't see it coming," Heap said. "This is one of the games I looked at and was definitely excited about."
Harbaugh said he has a lot of respect for Heap.
"I will be happy to see Todd," Harbaugh said. "I like Todd a lot. He is a great guy. I had three good years with him here. He is obviously a big part of the Ravens' tradition and an important part of the Ravens.
"But really, Sunday, to be honest with you, he is going to be a Cardinal. That's how I am looking at it, and that's how our team is looking at it."
During a conference call with Arizona reporters, Harbaugh expanded on his thoughts regarding Heap.
"Todd, I'm sure, was hoping to finish here," Harbaugh said. "He is so popular in the community. He's just such a good guy.
"I think it was probably hard for him. He just handled it with class and grace, just what you would have expected."
SMITH'S ROLE TO INCREASE: Rookie cornerback Jimmy Smith is expected to have his playing time increased after returning from a high left ankle sprain against the Jaguars.
He was limited to special teams work on the punt return team.
"It's about what the ankle permits and what the coaches allow me to do," Smith said. "I'm easing back into it. Of course it was fun to be out there and contribute some way and help the team out. Yeah, it gets better every week. The more and more I improve at practice, the more and more they're going to let me play."
The Ravens are preparing Smith to contribute on defense against the Cardinals.
"Hopefully, the opportunity presents itself," defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano said. "We'd love to get him out there and get him back in the swing of things. We'll see how the game goes, and again, it should be there, because they love to use multiple personnel groups and they're going to be in three, four, five wide sets. So, there should be some opportunities to get him out there."
PUNTER TRYOUT: The Ravens brought in left-footed punter Glenn Pakulak for a workout Thursday to help the Ravens' punt returners prepare for Cardinals lefty punter Dave Zastudil, the former Ravens punter.
QUICK HITS: In his first game action since injuring his shoulder, kick returner David Reed averaged 26.5 yards on two kickoff returns. The Ravens gave Reed his old job back after having Bryan McCann return punts against the Houston Texans. "We thought he was 100-percent healthy," special teams coordinator Jerry Rosburg said. "We saw a really good week of practice. We saw him take some hits in practice. We were confident that if he took a hit in the game that the ball would still be in his hands at the end of the game."
Despite the risks Ed Reed takes as a punt returner, including nearly muffing a punt back to the Jaguars before officials determined that he didn't touch the football, Rosburg said he stands behind his decisions generally.
"I have a lot of faith in Ed. Ed has demonstrated throughout his history, both in special teams and on defense, that he has some amazing ball skills, and he judges and analyzes football probably as good as anyone I've ever seen," Rosburg said. "So when Ed thinks he can make a play, we're all behind him. Obviously, ball security is primary, and he understands that. With that said, I mean that particular play was too close for comfort. But we have a lot of trust in Ed, and he's earned that."
Rosburg expressed confidence that Pro Bowl kicker Billy Cundiff will rebound after badly missing a 52-yard field goal against the Jaguars. "The thing that we've been reinforcing with Billy, and he's probably his biggest critic as you can imagine, is that you need to be aggressive with the ball," Rosburg said. "That's what we worked on, and we've practiced it a lot, and we're going to continue to practice it. We have a lot of confidence that the next opportunity he won't be leaning it right, I can assure you."
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