After their worst season since the franchise moved to Baltimore in 1996, the 5-11 Baltimore Ravens saw their coaching staff almost entirely wiped clean. Only defensive coordinator Rex Ryan has been retained to date, while a rookie head coach in John Harbaugh looks to right the ship. The franchise has already made a move to improve the team's 24th-ranked scoring offense from a year ago, hiring Cam Cameron to guide the offense in 2008.
Cameron brings with him to Baltimore 25 years of college and pro coaching experience. He began as an assistant under Bo Schembechler at the University of Michigan, working for the school 11 years until 1993.
From 1994 to 1996, Cameron served as the quarterbacks coach for the Washington Redskins. He moved back to college in 1997, coaching his alma mater University of Indiana until 2001. Cameron was offensive coordinator for the San Diego Chargers from 2002 to 2006, conducting one of the league's best offenses year in and year out.
In 2007, Cameron got his first shot at being an NFL head coach, becoming the seventh head coach in Miami Dolphins history. Things quickly went downward; however, as Cameron led the Dolphins to a league-worst 1-15 mark. Cameron and all but two members of his staff were fired at season's end.
Finding His Niche
Given the way things went with Cameron in Miami, it seems a strong possibility he is simply better suited for an offensive coordinator role. Cameron reportedly failed to earn the respect of Miami's veterans, and by the time the season was over he'd lost the entire team.
Fortunately, Cameron's success in San Diego as a coordinator should be much more indicative than his failures in Miami of what the Ravens can expect. Cameron was instrumental in the development of players such as quarterbacks Drew Brees (New Orleans Saints) and Philip Rivers, and tight end Antonio Gates. He and his fellow coaches turned San Diego's offensive line from one of the league's worst to one of the best - something that helped the team's offense rank in the top 10 in the league three of Cameron's five years.
Despite Cameron's lack of success in Miami, there are still positives to draw from what he did there. Before going down with a season-ending knee injury, third-year running back Ronnie Brown was leading the league in total yardage and was likely on his way to his first Pro Bowl. Despite massive injuries to the running back position, including the team's top three backs in Brown, Ricky Williams and Jesse Chatman, the Dolphins ran the ball better than they had in recent years.
Backs and Tight Ends
The biggest beneficiary of Cameron's presence should be running back Willis McGahee. While McGahee already set career highs in yards per carry, receptions and receiving yards in 2007, expect even better production in 2008. Cameron heavily utilizes his backs in the passing game, as indicated by Brown having 39 catches for 389 yards in only seven games. McGahee should see his yards per carry go up, and his total offense could easily be a career best if he is given a similar role to Brown.
Additionally, tight end Todd Heap should also be relied upon heavily. Cameron was unable to pass to his tight ends as often as he would have liked in Miami due to the lack of a quality player at the position, but Heap is one of the best tight ends in the NFL when healthy. If he can stay out of the training room, Heap just might earn his third career Pro Bowl berth under Cameron.
As already discussed, McGahee and Heap are upper-echelon fantasy prospects at their respective positions. Running back Mike Anderson could also see playing time as well, since Cameron has always utilized at least two backs on a fairly regular basis. If McGahee were to go down with an injury, Anderson could become an immediate fantasy contributor.
Veteran wide receiver Derrick Mason is still a reliable fantasy receiver, and receiver Mark Clayton is one to keep an eye on as well. However, the lack of a clear-cut starter at quarterback makes the offensive players' values a bit cloudy right now.
About Chris Nelson
Chris Nelson is a college student at Georgia State University currently majoring in journalism. Chris has been playing fantasy baseball and football for nearly a decade. He one day hopes to be a beat writer for the Miami Dolphins while eventually reaching the pinnacle of sports journalism, that being the ability to write about coffee, traveling, kids softball and whatever else he wants, all the while being paid good money by a national publication to do it. He has been a KFFL contributor since 2006.
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