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Big-play opportunity for Cameron, Ravens

The Baltimore Sun

MIAMI - Cam Cameron can't afford to think about the past today because he has too many problems in the present.

Returning to South Florida for the first time since being fired as the Miami Dolphins' head coach, Cameron is still feeling the heat today as he tries to correct a long-standing problem for the Ravens - a self-destructing offense.

So, the Dolphins - at least the 26 who remain from last season's 1-15 team - might be looking to show up their former coach. But Cameron said he is simply looking for the end zone.

"Now this game is about this team, and for me personally, it's about this offense getting better," said Cameron, who is in his first season as the Ravens' offensive coordinator.

"We could be playing this game in Nome, Alaska. We could be playing any team. We've got some things we have to improve on. That's our focus, and I know this: I'm not going to let our focus go anywhere but there."

Some might think Cameron is trying to defuse a volatile situation. But the Ravens' difficulties on offense are piling up as quickly as the turnovers these days.

The offensive line is without two injured starters on the right side (guard Marshal Yanda and tackle Adam Terry). Their wide receivers have not caught a touchdown pass.

Running back Willis McGahee is averaging 3.2 yards a carry. Todd Heap has become the league's highest-paid blocking tight end, making only eight catches in five games. And in rookie quarterback Joe Flacco's past three games, he has thrown five interceptions and fumbled four times, losing one. If the fading Ravens (2-3) want to break out of their three-game losing streak, Cameron has to find a way for this offense to break out of its funk against the Dolphins (2-3).

"For us, we're back to basics, back to fundamentals," Cameron said.

"We've got to make some adjustments on the offensive line, some adjustments in the backfield, and the game plan's still evolving. We expect to go down there and play well."

The optimism surrounding Cameron comes from his resume as an offensive coordinator.

The San Diego Chargers finished in the top half of the NFL in total offense in all five seasons (2002-2006) with Cameron as coordinator, including ranking in the top 10 for the last three.

Yet five games into Cameron's run with the Ravens, the offense is 25th in the league, a ranking that is more reminiscent of those under former head coach Brian Billick.

"The stats that we want to be measured on are how we take care of the football and scoring," Cameron said. "All those other stats can be deceiving. Your ability to score, there's nothing deceptive about that. Your ability to take care of the football, there's nothing deceptive about that."

Under those parameters - as Billick would like to say - the Ravens are struggling mightily.

In the past two games, the Ravens have more turnovers (seven) than trips to the red zone (five). They haven't scored a touchdown in their past 16 drives.

As a result, the Ravens have the NFL's fifth-worst scoring offense (15.6 points per game) and are tied for third in most turnovers (12).

"We're not playing at the level we want to play, but I'll say this: Offensively, there's a lot of trust amongst these guys," Cameron said.

This game could show how much trust Cameron has in Flacco.

The Dolphins, the NFL's fourth-worst pass defense, are coming off a game in which they allowed Houston Texans quarterback Matt Schaub to set a franchise record with 379 passing yards and wide receiver Andre Johnson to record 178 receiving yards, also a franchise record.

Miami has given up eight touchdowns in the air and has made three interceptions. It seems like a low-risk, high-reward scenario.

Still, will the Ravens put the ball in the hands of Flacco after watching him throw for just one touchdown and seven interceptions this season?

"The great thing you want in any quarterback [is] you want him to be aggressive," Cameron said. "One thing about Joe - he's not afraid. He wants to throw the ball up."

Throwing the ball up has been a successful route against the Dolphins.

With marginal cornerbacks such as Will Allen and Andre' Goodman, Miami surrendered five pass plays of 25 yards or longer last Sunday.

But Flacco has completed only five passes longer than 20 yards. He averages 5.86 yards per attempt, which is 26th in the NFL.

Still, Cameron said "without question" that the Ravens have the players in place to stretch a defense.

"We just haven't executed the plays," Cameron said before snapping his fingers. "We're just that close."



Today, 1 p.m.

TV: Chs. 13, 9

Radio: 97.9 FM, 1090 AM

Line: Miami by 3

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