OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Facing the media less than 72 hours following one of the Ravens’ biggest offensive debacles in team history couldn’t have been an easy task for offensive coordinator Cam Cameron.
The long-time NFL coach stood tall before the press in Owings Mills, answering every question without bristling or firing back with sarcasm. His overall message of the offense needing to move past Monday’s debacle and to turn its attention toward the Arizona Cardinals was the right one, if not totally predictable.
However, when asked to address specific issues related to the Baltimore offense, Cameron didn’t say very much of substance at all. His answers were unimpressive, doing little to inspire confidence that things are turning in the right direction.
You can only hear that it comes down to execution so many times before it begins falling on deaf ears, though fully acknowledging its significant part in the overall struggles of the offense.
When asked about quarterback Joe Flacco’s comments from a day earlier that suggested the two-minute offense would function more quickly if he were calling the plays instead of waiting for Cameron to relay them in, the offensive coordinator didn’t disagree. However, his explanation only clouded the situation further, inferring that Flacco has the autonomy to call plays but doesn’t always express a willingness to do so — for whatever reason.
“I think that’s something you always want to work toward,” Cameron said. “He and I have talked about that. Joe knows this and understands this. He can call any play that he feels that he needs to. He can suggest at any time. He’s made several suggestions this year, and he knows when he suggests one, I call it. I just believe in that, I come from that kind of environment where the quarterback gets involved in the play-calling. He’s had a significant amount of input, and I’d love for him to do that.”
Cameron hinted that Flacco’s youth was a possible factor in prohibiting him from taking more ownership in the no-huddle offense, a statement that likely won’t sit well with many with the quarterback entering his fourth season.
“The one thing you always tell [a young quarterback] is just say, ‘Hey, you got it’ and then, the next thing you know, sometimes they need help,” Cameron said. “What I’ve done with guys in the past, they look over, sometimes they need a play. I say, ‘Don’t be afraid. I don’t want your pride to get in the way if you need an idea, you need a call. All you have to do is press a button and you can talk to the guy instantly.’ It’s something that can really work.”
Far more puzzling than Cameron’s take on the two-minute offense was his assessment of the Baltimore wide receivers in Monday night’s game. Many have suggested Anquan Boldin, Torrey Smith, and LaQuan Williams struggled with the physical nature of the Jacksonville secondary, making things far more difficult on Flacco.
When asked what adjustments an offensive coordinator can make in the middle of the game when receivers are struggling to create separation in press coverage, Cameron instead went on the defensive by suggesting the receivers were more open than anyone opined and mentioning other factors that explained the failures in the passing game.
“It really wasn’t as much as everybody thought. If you look at the tape, there is separation,” Cameron said. “It’s a matter of us finding them, it’s a matter of us having time to find them. We’ve got guys open. There’s times where there’s a guy open and we didn’t have time to get him. We had people behind their secondary and didn’t have time to get it there. Maybe, one time, maybe, he didn’t see the guy. But, there was enough separation there to throw the football.
“I did hear that from somebody, but if you look at the tape, nothing could be further from the truth.”
Cameron is certainly entitled to his own opinion. And the source to which he was referring could have been one of the countless media members or fans rehashing the Ravens’ struggles against Rashean Mathis and the Jacksonville secondary.
But it was quite a contradiction to what coach John Harbaugh offered to the media in his Tuesday press conference. The Ravens head coach had a more negative view of the receivers’ performance against the Jaguars.
“We’re going to get a lot of [press coverage],” Harbaugh said. “We have to get off press. You have to get off press, and you have to get vertical and you have to make them pay – that’s the bottom line. I think we can do a better job of making them pay downfield, do a better job of making them pay on crossing routes and things like that to beat that coverage. We are capable of doing it. We have done it [earlier] this year.”
Coaches having differing opinions is nothing new, especially in the high-stakes nature of the NFL, but it does raise the question about Harbaugh’s involvement with the offense. A major point of emphasis following the Ravens’ disappointing playoff loss to Pittsburgh last January was the head coach’s increased role with the offense.
However, Cameron spoke only in generalities when asked to compare the particulars of Harbaugh’s offensive responsibilities this season as opposed to their first three seasons together in Baltimore.
“[His role] has just evolved,” Cameron said. “It’s like it would any other year — the first year to the second year to the third year. We’re always talking personnel. We’re always getting ideas, how to attack defenses, things that he sees. Just constant involvement, but he does that in all three phases. Obviously, he knows a lot of football. And I would say this, it’s a huge help. I can speak for us offensively — it’s a tremendous help.”
Complimentary for sure, but no indication of how his louder voice has impacted the offense one way or the other. A token blocking scheme suggestion or a trick play previously conjured from his days in Philadelphia would have pacified the question, but Cameron kept it vague.
It leads observers to draw one of two possible conclusions: Harbaugh is not as involved with the offense as we were led to believe, or egos might be involved in trying to sort this mess of an offense.
Either way, it doesn’t inspire much trust that possible remedies are on the horizon.
In fairness, words only do so much. Talking a good game might fool people — multiple times, even — but the spotlight shining on Cameron has never felt hotter in his four years with the Ravens.
Consistent results are necessary from everyone vested in the offense: the quarterback, the offensive line, the running backs, the wide receivers, and, yes, the coaches.
With the makings of a special defense that includes two future Hall of Famers in the latter stages of their respective careers, the offense needs to find its way quickly — and on a consistent basis.
Or, Cameron will likely find himself exiting stage left after the season.
How well or poorly he handles questions from the media doesn’t really matter.
Saying it and doing it are two different ideas.
As the offensive coordinator likes to say quite often, it’s all about execution on the field.
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