Ravens postcard (cont.)
New Face, New Place
Put me down for believing Cam Cameron is going to do more than his share to end the Ravens' long, national nightmare at quarterback. Baltimore's new offensive coordinator will be a calm, steadying presence for Smith, Flacco and Boller, and he's a great teacher of the game who knows how to patiently build a foundation with a young passer.
We're not supposed to root for anyone in this job, but I can't help but feel a bit for Cameron, who endured a nightmarish one year in Miami last season, going 1-15 before being fired as the Dolphins head coach by Bill Parcells. Cameron's Dolphins had almost no chance to win last year. Here's hoping that won't be his NFL head coaching epitaph.
Looking at the Schedule
An 8-8 rookie debut for Harbaugh sounds about right to me, and that would rate as a strong comeback season for the Ravens. Baltimore has eight games against 2007 playoff teams, and faces just four opponents who finished below .500 last year. We're going to know right away where the Ravens rate in the AFC North: They play Cincinnati, Cleveland and Pittsburgh in the season's first four weeks, and have the tough Titans and Colts of the AFC South right after that.
Memorable Image from Camp
The Ravens don't conduct their first full-squad practice until Thursday, so maybe having just quarterbacks, rookies and rehabilitating veterans on hand for Tuesday morning's workout led to a shortage of bodies. But there was Harbaugh, the ex-Eagles secondary coach, jumping in and taking some reps as a cornerback, doing anything he could to help his club. Ditto for secondary coach Chuck Pagano and even the veteran defensive tackle Pryce, who's here early rehabilitating from last year's torn pectoral muscle.
Later, Harbaugh and I ducked into one of the rooms at the nearby camp headquarters/hotel where some Ravens assistants were busy reviewing the video of the morning practice, including a brutal critique of Harbaugh's impromptu playing performance.
"I was playing outside in a Cover 3, and some press, and they were running right by me,'' said Harbaugh, citing Ravens rookie receivers Marcus Smith and Justin Harper. "You know what you forget sometimes is how good these guys are.''
Said Boller of Harbaugh, perhaps wisely: "He's pretty good. I tried to throw away from him a little bit.''
Rookie second-round running back Ray Rice would be a shrewd late-round fantasy sleeper. The ex-Rutgers bowling ball is going to get plenty of work with Willis McGahee's durability a continual question mark.
Gotta love the anticipation level of second-year offensive tackle Jared Gaither, who inherits the retired Jonathan Ogden's pivotal left tackle spot. Gaither mistakenly reported to Ravens camp Monday night, even though he wasn't due until Wednesday. He wasn't allowed to practice Tuesday, but he's in camp and counting the hours.
Harbaugh told me his players have made it known they miss Billick's trademark Panama hat on the practice field, because it helped them locate him at all times. "They're all mad at me because they don't know where the head coach is,'' said Harbaugh, who wore a standard baseball cap to practice Tuesday.