Harbaugh: ‘We’re just scratching the surface’

Street Talk Harbaugh: ‘We’re just scratching the surface’

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OWINGS MILLS — Goodbye, boredom. Hello, creativity.

That’s the message the Baltimore Ravens are sending offensively with the grand unveiling of "The Suggs Package," a double-quarterback gambit that paid dividends and opened eyes during a 29-10 victory Sunday over the Oakland Raiders.

One day after quarterbacks Joe Flacco and Troy Smith shared time on the field for a handful of snaps, including a dramatic 43-yard passing connection from Smith to Flacco as the Ravens’ variation of the single-wing offense totaled 75 yards, Ravens coach John Harbaugh signaled that the innovative scheme isn’t just a passing fad. He says it will stay a viable part of the offense for the remainder of the season.

"We could see using that package every game," Harbaugh said Monday at the Ravens’ training complex. "People playing against us are going to have to be prepared for it every week. We’re just scratching the surface of the things that we have in."

Offensive coordinator Cam Cameron borrowed a page from his football past when he was the Indiana Hoosiers’ coach and utilized Washington Redskins wide receiver Antwaan Randle El in a multi-dimensional quarterback role.

This formation was jokingly named after loquacious linebacker Terrell Suggs when he endorsed Smith over Flacco twice in a radio interview before backtracking and saying he merely wanted to see both quarterbacks on the field.

The Ravens gained 375 yards of total offense and controlled the football nearly 13 minutes longer than the confused Raiders.

"We’re not going in trying to gimmick anybody, we’re not trying to trick anybody," Cameron said. "We think anything we do gives us a better opportunity to win. We’re not trying to keep anybody happy."

The single-wing was installed during minicamps, but it wasn’t used until Sunday weeks after Smith, a former Heisman Trophy winner at

, recovered from a severe tonsil infection that derailed his bid for the starting job in August.

Cam has done an incredible job game-planning," Smith said. "He is coming up with different ways to get guys the ball in certain situations. We haven’t second-guessed him so far, so we will just keep moving forward."

Cameron definitely caught the Raiders off-guard. Especially when Flacco dashed behind Oakland linebacker Ricky Brown and when Smith ran the option with rookie running back Ray Rice for a combined 21-yard gain.

"That stuff gave us an advantage, and it worked against those guys," Flacco said. "You see those things put in during practice and you’re always just hoping that they actually get called."

This doesn’t mark the end of the Ravens’ bag of tricks, though. Harbaugh insists this was just a preview.

"There’s a lot of other things we’re practicing that we are going to show as time goes on," Harbaugh said. "We think we’re creative. We think we have a chance to be an exciting offense."

When asked if there’s a risk of injury that accompanies using Flacco as a receiver, Harbaugh replied: "I think it’s worth it."

Harbaugh acknowledged that the Ravens tried to throw Miami Dolphins quarterback Chad Pennington off the field into the Gatorade bucket when he lined up at wide receiver in the Dolphins’ ‘Wildcat’ offense.

A 6-foot-6, 240-pound rookie first-round pick from

, Flacco had better be prepared to defend himself.

"Joe has got to understand that when you line up as a wide receiver, you’re fair game," Harbaugh said. "You’re going to have to protect yourself out there and be a football player."

Cameron acknowledged that another reason behind the gadget plays goes beyond fooling the defense. He wants to keep the players engaged and open-minded.

"It kind of keeps it fresh," said linebacker Ray Lewis, smiling at the prospect of a

 offense being described as fun after years of dormancy. "It’s kind of exciting when you see a new flavor."

Could Smith or Flacco have 6-foot-4, 345-pound defensive tackle Haloti Ngata as a lead blocker or a downfield target in the near future?

Ngata cleared a path as a tight end in the red zone Sunday, bulldozing a path for running back Willis McGahee on a one-yard touchdown run.

"He’s a big physical guy, and he can block," Harbaugh said. "He wants to be back there in the backfield running the football. He figures as long as he’s on the field, he has a chance."

Recently, the Ravens had offensive guard Ben Grubbs line up as an extra defensive tackle in defensive coordinator Rex Ryan’s goal-line defense. Flacco has run the option this season.

Cameron has also used the no-huddle exclusively for entire drives, albeit with mixed results recently. In 21 no-huddle snaps against the Dolphins, the Ravens gained only 79 yards.

Cam comes up with all kinds of stuff," Flacco said. "I don’t know what he’s going to come up with, but we’re growing as an offense. Who knows what we’ll see?"

Cameron even has a formation that utilizes defensive players as wide receivers.

"He’s scouring our whole football team," Harbaugh said. "I guess the cat is out of the bag for our opponents, but we’ve got a package. Maybe they’ll see it, maybe they won’t, but he’s amazingly creative in matching personnel to scheme.

"That kind of stuff makes it more fun for the players. It gets them more involved."


Aaron Wilson covers the Baltimore Ravens for the Carroll County Times and the Annapolis Capital.
Photo by Sabina Moran.

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Aaron Wilson

About Aaron Wilson

Aaron Wilson covers the NFL for National Football Post as well as the Baltimore Ravens for The Carroll County Times and Ravens24x7.com. He has previously covered the Jacksonville Jaguars and Tennessee Titans and has covered the NFL since 1997.  He has won several regional writing awards, including, most recently, Best Sports News Story for the state of Maryland in voting conducted by the Associated Press managing editors. 

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