Ravens' offense rests on Cameron's shoulders

Now that virtually all off-season acquisitions are in the books, it's time to hit the practice field and find out what kind of team the Baltimore Ravens have for the 2008 season. It is a new era in Baltimore, marked by the arrival of rookie head coach John Harbaugh who has certainly made an impression so far.

Many players have participated in his grueling off-season workouts and his first few practices are notable for an extremely up-tempo pace which is a stark contrast to the Brian Billick era.

However, while it would appear on the outside that Harbaugh is the leading man for the future, it may just be the case that a man behind-the-scenes is the key to success for the franchise. And that man is new offensive coordinator Cam Cameron.

Cameron boasts a pedigree for breeding some stellar quarterbacks who ranked as merely average prior to his tutelage (see the perennial back up Gus Frerotte who has been with half of the teams in the league it seems like and Cleo Lemon who beat the Ravens last year) and for also elevating and resurrecting the careers of several Pro Bowl quarterbacks (see Trent Green, Drew Brees and Phillip Rivers).

Thus, he may be the perfect man to mold Ravens quarterback-of-the-future Joe Flacco. If Cameron was able to propel those quarterbacks who had only marginal talent, just think what he can do with a guy who has a rocket for an arm. Plus, like Flacco who was snubbed by University of Pittsburgh, Cameron is eager to prove his previous season with the 1-15 Miami Dolphins was a fluke.

"Everyone gets stung occasionally in life and it's good to learn from it and get back up," said Cameron at his first news conference following his hire. "You move forward, you make the best of it. I think that's the important thing, and I'm excited about moving forward, as well as I know the Ravens are."

Along with bringing in an entirely new offense that is hopefully more dynamic than the previous one (how could it not be?), Cameron will be the sole coach responsible for Flacco's development this year.

"Down the road it will be both [quarterbacks coach Hue Jackson and me]" said Cameron about who will tutor Flacco at the quarterback's news conference following the draft. "For right now, and Hue and I talked about this one, Hue and I have never worked together, so what we'd like to do for our quarterbacks is to make sure they hear one voice for a year…I'll take the lead this year, but over time that will evolve."

Therefore, all of the Ravens' chips for ending the quarterback curse and finally righting the offense are in Cameron's hands. Not surprisingly, he was effusive in his praise of Flacco at the first round pick's news conference: "I think the reason we're sitting here is that the scouting staff said, ‘Hey, we need to go and take a look at this kid at Delaware.'

We all came away from that workout saying to each other, ‘Did you see what I saw?' Let's see how this thing plays out. I think he's a perfect fit for what we want to do."

Hopefully, Cameron is right and everyone in the stands gets to see what he saw in Flacco.

This coming weekend is the team's first mandatory mini camp where all players (with the possible exception of franchise player Terrell Suggs who has yet to sign his contract) gather in Owings Mills.

And, as the saying goes, let the competition begin. While the focus will be on the new head coach as he conducts his first true practice, you might just want to pay closer attention to the coach who actually holds the Ravens' future in the palm of his quarterback's hand and let's all wish he can work his magic again.

Hank Nathan is a guest columnist for Ravens Insider and a journalism student at Washington & Lee.


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