Quarterback Joe Flacco raised eyebrows on Wednesday by criticizing what he believed to be conservative play-calling in the second half of the Ravens’ 20-14 win over the Cleveland Browns on Christmas Eve.
Without naming names, it was a clear jab at the offensive coordinator, even if Flacco’s comments were made with a tongue-in-cheek tone.
So, how would Cam Cameron respond on Thursday?
“I almost thought of telling Joe, ‘Those words are hurtful. I am not coming to the pancake social,’” said Cameron, drawing laughs from the media. “No. That’s why Joe wins. I really believe that. He’s a competitor. He wants the ball in his hands every play that matters.”
Of course, Cameron was joking about their breakfast plans, but it’s just the latest example supporting the perception of the two not being on the same page when it comes to a vision for the Baltimore offense. The offensive coordinator handled the quarterback’s comments impressively, even if he did stand his ground when assessing Saturday’s game and the need to be conservative in certain game situations in any given week.
“Every now and then, I am going to look out there, and I even say to Joe, I’ll beep in [to his helmet], ‘Hey now, I am being a little conservative here.’ I didn’t say that a lot the other day, to be honest with you. I think we’re playing a team offense.”
Of the Ravens’ 62 offensive plays, 37 were rushing attempts as Flacco attempted 24 passes and was sacked once by the Cleveland defense.
Right guard contingency plans
With Pro Bowl guard Marshal Yanda missing his second straight practice on Thursday as he continues to recover from severe rib and thigh contusions, the Ravens face the possibility of being without their best offensive lineman when they take on the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday.
Veteran Andre Gurode replaced Yanda against the Browns, playing the right guard position for the first time since his early years with the Dallas Cowboys. A 10-year veteran and five-time Pro Bowl center before being released by Dallas in the preseason, Gurode made five starts at left guard in place of Ben Grubbs earlier this season.
Signed by the Ravens as an insurance policy for veteran Matt Birk, who missed the preseason after undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery, Gurode instead has been needed at both guard positions this season. Reviews have been mixed on his performance, but the high standard of play set by Grubbs and Yanda is difficult to reach.
“He did fine [against Cleveland],” coach John Harbaugh said. “He did a good job. It’s a tough duty. Andre has been put in that situation a few times. He continues to compete in there, and battle and do a good job.”
Gurode is the favorite to replace Yanda at the right guard position if he’s unable to play on Sunday, but rookie Jah Reid could be a sleeper candidate to fill the role. The 6-foot-7 tackle has occasionally been used as a blocking tight end in jumbo packages and is capable of playing guard. The promotion of offensive tackle D.J. Jones to the 53-man roster earlier this week would support such a possiblity, as Reid is the primary backup behind starting tackles Bryant McKinnie and Michael Oher.
Conventional thinking would scoff at the notion of an interior lineman with such stature, but the 6-foot-6 Flacco would not have the same difficulty seeing as most quarterbacks would. If the rookie lineman would get the call instead of the veteran Gurode, the coaching staff is confident in his development over the course of the season.
“No one wants to be the one to let somebody down – whether it be our fans, teammates, coaches, whatever it is,” Cameron said. “All those things give this guy a chance. If we need this guy, I think he’ll play well.”
If defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano is having difficulty sleeping this week, a certain rookie grabbing headlines in Cincinnati is the reason why.
Bengals wide receiver A.J. Green was not only named to the Pro Bowl earlier this week, but the former Georgia product broke Cris Collinsworth’s franchise record for receiving yards by a rookie with 1,031. His 63 catches lead all NFL rookies while his seven touchdowns lead the team.
“He’s a nightmare,” said Pagano in describing the 6-foot-3 Green. “He’s leading the NFL in rebounds, you know? They just throw the ball up to him and it doesn’t matter if there are two or three guys [covering him].”
Green has four 100-yard receiving games this season to set another rookie record for the franchise. His phenomenal rookie year has even drawn comparisons with another rookie who exploded onto the scene with the Minnesota Vikings in 1998.
“I heard some refer to him [that] he is the new Randy Moss,” linebacker Terrell Suggs said. “He’s like Randy was when Randy first got into the league. Randy is becoming noun in the NFL. You get beat deep, that’s called a ‘Randy!’ He is definitely one of those type of guys. If we don’t get the ball, we definitely have to contain him.”