Wildcat formations. Double reverses. Receiver option passes.
The Ravens are sprinkling their offensive playbook with a little spice, and the confidence to use those gadget plays is producing results. Wide receiver Mark Clayton scored on a 42-yard double reverse in the season opener against the Cincinnati Bengals. Quarterback Joe Flacco hauled in his first career reception on a 43-yard strike from fellow quarterback Troy Smith against the Oakland Raiders. And Clayton connected with wide receiver Derrick Mason on a 32-yard pass in Sunday's 34-3 win over the Bengals.
As innovative as offensive coordinator Cam Cameron has been, the offense's success relies on the unit's ability to manufacture yards and points through more conventional methods.
"I think the trick in the whole thing is to build a foundation first and within that, to be creative," coach John Harbaugh said. "So when you talk about Coach Cameron and what he's done with our offense, we're a fundamentally sound offense. We're built on a foundation that is fundamentally rock solid, and that's what we believe in. And within that, you build some creativity in, and I think guys understand that is what your offense is about."
Can the Ravens keep adding new wrinkles? Cincinnati defensive tackle John Thornton seemed to suggest the Ravens might have revealed too much Sunday.
"They dialed up everything that they had," Thornton said. "They had Troy Smith in there and were running reverse passes and stuff. I think we got to see their whole playbook, we were out there so much."
Harbaugh, however, indicated that the offense hasn't exhausted its bag of tricks.
"There's always a creative mind, right? There's always things you can go to," he said.
McGahee still in plans
Harbaugh reiterated that running back Willis McGahee - who has been overshadowed by fullback Le'Ron McClain as the team's leading rusher the past two weeks - is a valued cog in the offense.
"We really like Willis McGahee," Harbaugh said. "We think he's a really good player, and we plan on Willis being a huge part of what we're doing in December. He's been practicing very well. He's getting stronger and stronger throughout the course of the season. There's no question in my mind that Willis McGahee is a very talented back, and he's going to be a huge part of what we're doing here down the stretch."
Yesterday afternoon, McGahee issued a statement that read: "I support my Team and Coach Harbaugh, and I love playing in Baltimore. I am working hard and look forward to helping our Team win another Championship. Recently, Le'Ron, Ray [Rice] and myself had the opportunity to give back to 700 families for Thanksgiving. It has been great working together with such good teammates on and off the field."
Linebacker Jarret Johnson's leg injury late in the fourth quarter of Sunday's game was apparently not serious. "He's OK," Harbaugh said. "I saw him this morning. Yeah, he's fine." ... In addition to singling out linebacker-defensive end Terrell Suggs for making two key blocks on strong safety Jim Leonhard's 35-yard interception return for a touchdown and Smith's block on a carry by Rice, Harbaugh praised defensive tackle Haloti Ngata - playing offense in a goal-line package - for drawing coverage that contributed to tight end Todd Heap's 4-yard touchdown catch in the second quarter. "They jumped Haloti," Harbaugh said. "Haloti was our decoy." ... As the Ravens have done several times this season, they were forced to burn a timeout when Smith stepped onto the field for the first time in the first quarter Sunday. "It's easy to say that it's time management," Harbaugh said. "It's a substitution issue. ... We've got Mark Clayton down there at the 5-yard line trying to get back, and it's hard for him to know exactly what the substitution pattern is within that 40-second clock, and that's what happened in that situation." ... Former Ravens offensive coordinator Jim Fassel (2004-2006) will provide analysis on Westwood One's national radio broadcast of Sunday night's game. ... Since 2003, the Ravens boast a 10-1 home record against NFC opponents, which is tied with the Jacksonville Jaguars for the best mark among AFC teams.