Cameron a breath of fresh air for Ravens

OWINGS MILLS -- The idea behind the Baltimore Ravens hiring Cam Cameron as their new offensive coordinator was elementally simple. The Ravens brought in Cameron for his play-calling acumen, and to galvanize an offense that has lacked a true identity for the majority of the past decade.

Based on Cameron's background, the players are immediately buying into having an experienced voice on the offensive side of the football with coach John Harbaugh's first hire.

"I'm excited about having him here as our offensive coordinator," Ravens tight end Daniel Wilcox said Thursday. "My understanding is he likes to focus on throwing the ball to set up and open up the running game. That's what I would do if I was an offensive coordinator. My understanding is he likes to get the ball to the tight end, so that's great, too."

In Cameron's lone victory as the Miami Dolphins' head coach prior to being fired by Bill Parcells following a 1-15 season, he managed to engineer an overtime victory over Baltimore.

This transpired with journeyman quarterback Cleo Lemon passing for 315 yards and a game-winning touchdown pass for his first victory as a starter since he was a senior at Arkansas State.

Cameron made good use of shifty running back Lorenzo Booker in the open field and exploited matchups like veteran wide receiver Marty Booker lining up across from rookie cornerback Willie Gaston.

"As an offensive coordinator, you have to evaluate what you have and try to use everyone to the best of their ability," Wilcox said. "That's what makes someone a good coach."

Overall, though, it was an extraordinarily rough experience last year as the Dolphins ranked near the bottom of the league in scoring and yardage. Plus, key locker room figures like defensive end Jason Taylor and linebacker Joey Porter were openly defiant toward Cameron.

During five years as the San Diego Chargers' offensive coordinator, Cameron led an attack that set a franchise record with 492 points in 2006. It was the third consecutive year the Chargers scored over 400 points, a span where they averaged 28.6 points per contest.

In 2006, the Chargers were the only team to rush for 2,500 yards and pass for 3,400 yards while leading the league in red-zone touchdowns with 52 scores in 62 trips inside the 20-yard line for a 67.7 percent success rate.

The success of All-Pro running back LaDainian Tomlinson and tight end Antonio Gates offers is encouraging to a Baltimore offense that's built largely around running back Willis McGahee and tight end Todd Heap.

"Coach Cameron's reputation precedes him, and he'll be a breath of fresh air for the locker room," said Ravens fullback Justin Green, who grew up in San Diego. "As a seasoned play-caller, he knows what he's doing. It should be a great fit with the weapons we have on offense. Truthfully, I'm really excited to get started and get in his playbook.

"I know he did great things with the fullback in San Diego, Lorenzo Neal. The quicker we're able to learn his offense and get the reps, the faster we're going to be in the mix of being able to master what he's installing."

NOTES: Wilcox underwent surgery last week to repair his toe as Carolina Panthers orthopedist Robert Anderson performed the procedure. Scar tissue was removed as well as broken cartilage.

"It went really well and is healing really well," said Wilcox, who's presently on crutches. "I should be ready by camp."

Wilcox is entering the final year of his contract and caught just six passes for 18 yards and a touchdown last season as he was limited to five games due to ankle, toe and hamstring injuries.

"I just hope I'm a part of the future here," Wilcox said. "Being hurt all year and going into this season with a whole new staff, I'm not a lock like a Todd Heap. I have to earn my spot and work my butt off." ...

Wilcox met with Harbaugh earlier this week for nearly 20 minutes.

"I was really, really impressed," Wilcox said. "I think he'll do a wonderful job. I think Baltimore will grow to love him. He's a very positive person."

Aaron Wilson covers the Baltimore Ravens for the Carroll County Times and the Annapolis Capital.

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