OWINGS MILLS – Under serious scrutiny from critics after orchestrating a play sheet where star running back Ray Rice was barely involved Sunday, Baltimore Ravens offensive coordinator Cam Cameron insists that having Rice be a focal point of the offense remains a major priority.
“There’s nobody that wants to get Ray the ball more than I do or we do as a staff,” Cameron said. “Sometimes, circumstances dictate. Now, you are trying to throw it to a guy instead of handing it to him. That has its challenges.
“By the end of this season, he needs to be a guy who is getting the ball as much or more than anybody in the league. That gives us the best chance to win.”
However, there seems to be a disconnect between those words and how the offense is run considering that Rice only had 13 touches in a loss to the Seattle Seahawks to equal his season-low established earlier this season in a glaringly similar defeat to the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Overall, Rice touches the ball plenty.
He has rushed for 559 yards and six touchdowns on 138 carries, catching a team-high 46 passes for 470 yards and two touchdowns.
So, why did he only have five runs for 27 yards against the Seahawks with one carry in the second half?
And why did Cameron have quarterback Joe Flacco launch a career-high 52 passes?
Cameron cited how the Ravens fell behind 22-7 as they were plagued by turnovers and field position issues.
“Every game kind of takes on a life of its own,” Cameron said. “We’re not looking at it big picture as runs and passes. We want to run the football better. We want to run it more, but sometimes circumstances dictate that you have to do whatever you need to do to win the game.”
What does Rice think about what happened? As he politely said Wednesday: “Five carries isn’t going to cut it.”
Although the Seahawks’ time of possession edge of 35:01 to the Ravens’ 24:59 seemed to make a difference as running back Marshawn Lynch grinded out yards to keep the offense off the field against a tired Ravens defense, Cameron doesn’t think running the ball would have made a difference in terms of wearing out the opponent and allowing the defense to rest.
“Really, it’s the opposite,” Cameron said. “You talk to guys that can rush the passer, rush the passer, rush passer. That takes it out of them. There aren’t a ton of teams just bruising people up all the time now, but you can take just as much out of them making them rush the passer, and our guys did a great job. It just depends on how you want to look at it. There are times you want to be physical. We are going to be physical in pass protection. I think we have to kind of get away from stereotyping things as run or pass.
“It’s really about execution, it’s about throwing it and catching it, when you run it, hanging onto it, because our No. 1 issue is ball security. We’ve done a tremendous job here the last few years of ball security, and it doesn’t get talked about. Our goal is to keep our defense on the sideline, and if we put them back out there, make sure those men don’t have a short field behind them.”
EVANS PRACTICES AGAIN: Wide receiver Lee Evans (left ankle) practiced again on a limited basis. It’s his fifth practice in a row dating back to last week when he started practicing after missing seven games in a row.
Cameron suggested that Evans might not necessarily return this week, though.
“It’s really going to be predicated on how he practices,” Cameron said. “He probably needs a week or two of good practice. I think that will help because some of our other guys are playing really well and we have some other options until he comes back.
“We’ll see how the practices go. If he is practicing at a level that John [Harbaugh] feels and we feel he can help us win the game, then I am sure he will be active. That may take a week or two.”
Not practicing: rookie running back Anthony Allen (hamstring) and defensive tackle Arthur Jones (concussion).
Linebacker Dannell Ellerbe (hamstring) was upgraded to full participation.
For the Bengals, wide receiver AJ Green (hyperextended right knee) didn’t practice for the second day in a row as well as tight end Donald Lee (foot). Outside linebacker Dontay Moch didn’t practice due to an illness.
The following players were limited: defensive end Carlos Dunlap (hamstring), cornerback Adam Jones (groin), defensive end Michael Johnson (non-injury reasons), running back Brian Leonard (knee), defensive end Frostee Rucker (knee) and safety Gibril Wilson (ankle).
Cornerback Nate Clements (knee) participated fully as well as center Kyle Cook (foot), safety Chris Crocker (knee), defensive end Jonathan Fanene (illness) and wide receiver Andrew Hawkins (hamstring).
NEW KICK RETURNER Ravens special teams coordinator Jerry Rosburg confirmed that David Reed won’t be returning kickoffs against the Bengals after losing two fumbles in Seattle.
"David is a competitive athlete, he’s looking forward to the next opportunity," Rosburg said. "We don’t know when that is. He will not be returning kicks for us Sunday."
Rosburg said the team will practice kickoff returns today and choose a kick returner for Sunday. The pool of candidates includes Chris Carr, LaQuan Williams, Torrey Smith and Tom Zbikowski.
Williams and Zbikowski are regarded as the leaders for the position.
"That’s what we’re working on,” Rosburg said. “We’re going to have a good kick returner practice and we’ll find out who our kick returner is.”
Reed led the NFL with a 29.3 kickoff return average as a rookie last year.
However, his three fumbles also lead the NFL.
"I feel good, it’s like I’m starting with a new slate," Reed said. "I was at the bottom and now I have to work my way back up to the top. I got to do me.”
Reed ranks fourth in the league with a 28.6 kick return average.
For now, though, he’ll be watching someone else operate as the Ravens’ primary kick returner.
The Ravens are expected to give Reed another chance at some point.
“I’m sure he can bounce back,” Rosburg said. “David’s a competitive athlete, and he’s looking forward to the next opportunity. Now we don’t know when that is, but I’m certain that when he does get in there again, everybody’s going to be watching him with that in mind.
“David’s a competitive guy, and he understands what he has to do to get that job back. He’s got to earn the trust of everybody on this football team, that he’s going to hang onto the ball when he gets it, and he started that path yesterday.”
Reed also fumbled against the Pittsburgh Steelers, but it was recovered by Baltimore.
"We took David aside and spent a good deal of time going back to the fundamentals of ball security," Rosburg said. "It’s fundamental flaws. It’s not a lightning strike. It doesn’t happen by accident. We went about trying to correct it and fix it. We like David back there as a returner, but he won’t be our returner if he puts the ball on the ground."
Reed left his feet on the returns, which tends to increase the chances of a fumble.
"We don’t want that," Rosburg said. "The first one, he left his feet. The second one, he left his feet because he got cut out from the backside. That is something we don’t teach. That is something we don’t want David to do. That’s part of ball security, too, how you protect the ball not only with your hands but with the rest of your body as well.”
TIME IS NOW: For rookie cornerback Jimmy Smith, his playing time is about to expand against the Bengals.
Drafted in the first round out of Colorado, Smith is beginning to see more playing time on defense after primarily working on special teams since he returned from a high left ankle sprain.
He has just one pass deflection and one special-teams tackle.
“He’ll see a considerable amount of time,” Pagano said. “We’ve got to get him out there and get him going. So, yeah, he’s ready.”