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While the free agency period and the draft still lie a bit beyond the horizon, the Ravens made their biggest acquisition of the off season, when they agreed to terms with former Miami Dolphins head coach Cam Cameron to take over as the offensive coordinator.
Specifically, new head coach John Harbaugh has made his biggest and most important hire during the first week of his tenure as the Ravensâ€™ head coach.
The addition of Cameron gives the team a credible director to handle the offense. In five seasons with the San Diego Chargers, a number of Cameron led offenses scored points in bunches. The â€˜04 and â€˜06 Charger outfits were rated among the top groups in the league in points scored. In addition, the Bolts only ranked worse than 15th in total offense one time, and that was in Cameronâ€™s first year as coordinator.
Cameron comes into this situation with little to lose. If he is able to turn the offense around, he will be lauded as a miracle worker who essentially raised the Titanic. If the offense continues to stumble and bumble as it did when Brian Billick led the group, the tide may turn against general manager Ozzie Newsome for assembling an inept group of playmakers.
For good reason, the organization has maintained that it does have the talent on offense to succeed. It just needs to be coached the right way.
Cameron is the right man for the job. Under his guidance, a young offensive line developed into one of the best units in the league, a little known tight end from Kent State became the best pass-catching tight end in the league and two quarterbacks enjoyed Pro Bowl seasons.
And then thereâ€™s LaDanian Tomlinson, who was the engine of Cameronâ€™s ground games.
There is no question that Cameron will devise ways to use his new back, Willis McGahee, in the same way. Like Tomlinson, McGahee is a slasher, who can run inside and outside. He is also able to make plays in the passing game, and should be used more as a third down back than he was under Billick.
The key difference between Cameron and any of the other coaches who tried to resuscitate the Baltimore attack over the years is that Cameron will not be running someone elseâ€™s offense. He will be installing a brand new system.
It will take some time, but once the players get used to the new schemes and terminology, this offense could hum at a faster pace than it has since Ted Marchibroda was in place as the head coachâ€¦
One of the first orders of business for Cameron and his staff is to figure out which quarterback will lead the team. Hopefully, they will give some serious consideration to Troy Smith.
Doubters and skeptics of Smith cite his inexperience as a major detriment for the former Buckeye in his efforts to secure the Ravensâ€™ top signal calling job. But here are some other issues to consider.
Of the three quarterbacks currently on the roster, Smith is clearly the most adept at evading pressure. McNairâ€™s mobility has been sapped due to injuries; Boller simply does not have any sense of how to escape the pocket.
Although there are times when Smith misjudges when to run, he generally has a sound knack for buying time while bouncing to open areas as the rush is caving in around him.
Moreover, when Smith does leave the pocket to scramble, he can gain yards in chunks.
He has better arm strength than McNair, and better accuracy throwing the deep ball than Boller. Consistent accuracy will always be an issue with Smith, especially on intermediate passes. But when he does time his throws precisely, those passes hit receivers in stride.
The fact that Smith lacks experience has not dissuaded his teammates from backing him. Veterans like Derrick Mason and Jason Brown have expressed how impressed they were with Smithâ€™s demeanor and approach to leading the huddle. Even at a young age, Smith appears to be capable of being the leader of the offense.
Perhaps what is most impressive about Smith is his ability to manage the tempo of the offense. In the three games he played in, the offense committed few penalties and was routinely on schedule. Also, Smith himself had a good grasp on how to change up the cadence.
These are just some of the many factors that the new coaches will have to compare when they evaluate the quarterbacks over the next seven months. At this point, it appears that Smith is ahead in almost every category except of course in the height department. But keep in mind that Cameron was able to work well with another vertically challenged QB in San Diego. In 2004 Drew Brees earned Pro Bowl and Comeback Player of The Year honors.
Speaking of quarterbacks, it will be interesting to see how this yearâ€™s crop of gunslingers handle themselves at the Senior Bowl on Saturday.
So far, the scouts have given lukewarm grades to all of the quarterback prospects.
The consensus appears to be that Joe Flacco from Delaware may have the most boom or bust potential. Flacco is a big, rugged player who can air the ball out. But he is wildly inaccurate and has had trouble protecting the ball.
Other prospects, such as Chad Henne from Michigan and Erik Ainge from Tennessee, have been solid but not spectacular.
Then again, at least those players decided to show up for the practices and the game, which Ryan Brohm and Matt Ryan opted not to do. While Ryan may be justified for not participating, Brohmâ€™s stock is hardly secure, and he could have benefited from the evaluation process.