Cameron demanding a faster pace

OWINGS MILLS -- The bespectacled man with the flat Indiana accent is in a rush, barking out orders as the offense hurries to the line of scrimmage.

There were two large play clocks installed at minicamps to simulate the rapid game tempo that new Baltimore Ravens offensive coordinator Cam Cameron is preaching.

It's a breakneck pace as Cameron tries to overhaul a stagnant offense that generated precious few big plays last season.

The idea of a faster approach is something of a novel concept for an offense that had been moving in slow motion compared to their defensive counterparts for years.

Between a no-huddle offense no longer exclusive to the two-minute drill, lots of motion, timing routes, shorter quarterback drops and a thicker playbook, Ravens Offense 2.0 is booting up under Cameron's direction.

"It's super high-tempo," defensive coordinator Rex Ryan said. "A lot of no-huddle, a lot of shifts, motions, you name it.

"He's a smart football coach. It's like the ultimate chess match. He'll move a piece, then we move one and vice versa."

The Ravens will run Cameron's version of the West Coast offense, which features a smash-mouth running game led by Willis McGahee, longer routes than the ball-control patterns favored by former coach Brian Billick and an emphasis on yards after the catch.

"It's a system that utilizes the talent that we have," Cameron said. "We have a runner and we have the opportunity to use the running game. It's an aggressive mindset.

"I know that's my style. We're trying to score every chance we can and take care of the football."

It's not a secret that the defense has always worked at a stealthier pace. Now, Baltim ore is trying to reverse that trend.

"Cam challenged us to make the defense be the second best at running to the ball," quarterback Troy Smith said. "We're going to do that, and the offense is going to hustle and make plays."

The Ravens finished 22nd in total offense last year (302.0 average), 23rd in passing and 16th in rushing.

The play-calling was far too predictable. Baltimore ranked 24th in scoring, averaging 17.2 points with just 13 touchdown passes.

That's why Cameron has hit the fast-forward button to revitalize the attack.

"Cam Cameron half-jokingly implied that we should get to the ball faster than our own defense, or any defense we face," wide receiver Derrick Mason said. "We want to be different than what this offense has been stereotyped the past 10 years."

Wide receiver Demetrius Williams had an even blunter take.

"We want to stop being the red-headed stepchild," he said. "It's time to change that image and be equals. If we line up fast, then they don't know what we're doing."

A former Miami Dolphins head coach and San Diego Chargers offensive coordinator, Cameron played football and basketball at Indiana for Lee Corso and Bob Knight.

Among his other important influences: Bo Schembechler, Sam Wyche, Norv Turner, John Robinson and Marty Schottenheimer.

In 2004, Sports Illustrated named Cameron its Offensive Assistant Coach of the Year. In 2006, the Chargers scored 496 points as LaDainian Tomlinson was named the league MVP and broke the single-season touchdown record.

Drew Brees and Philip Rivers are among the quarterbacks Cameron has developed with offenses that highlighted tight end Antonio Gates' talents.

"The system has had some success," said Cameron, who was fired by the Dolphins after a 1-15 season. "Our goal is to be the hardest-working offense in the league and then we're going to work to be the smartest. Those are the cornerstones."

Added Ravens coach John Harbaugh: "Cam's philosophy is building the offense to the personnel. So, it's a broad spectrum. I don't know if anybody's playbook could be any thicker. They're learning a lot at a fast tempo and that's where they have to keep up."

Cameron expects his players to prove that they have his teachings down pat.

As the Ravens begin camp, Cameron will give the skill players a 12-minute test and an eight-minute quiz for the offensive line.

"It's to find out, 'Where are you? Where do we need to grow from?'" Cameron said. "Put a little heat, a little pressure on them and see what they've retained."

A blistering learning curve has been particularly challenging for the quarterbacks.

"There is not any wasted time," quarterback Kyle Boller said. "The tempo has been a lot different. In the meetings, everything is very detailed.

"You've got to know it. They are not going to spoon-feed it to you. It makes guys be accountable, and that's what we need for our offense to be successful."

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


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