Ravens’ No. 1 Goal: Stop Fumbles

Baltimore ranks second in the NFL with eight fumbles in two preseason games.

Posted by Ryan Mink on Thursday, August 26th, 2010 at 4:01 pm | Categories: Ryan Mink

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While many fans will watch Saturday’s third preseason game against the New York Giants to see what the first-team offense does with the ball, Ravens Offensive Coordinator Cam Cameron will be watching whether his unit simply holds onto the ball.

“The first thing we have to work on Saturday night is ball security,” Cameron said as soon as he stepped up to the press conference microphone Thursday.

“We think we emphasize it enough, but obviously we haven’t, and we’re going to try to get that corrected. That’d be our No. 1 goal coming out of the game Saturday night. We’ve got to find a way to be aggressive and still take care of the football.”

Baltimore was sixth-best in the NFL with 19 fumbles last year, 14 less than the league-leading Seattle Seahawks. But the Ravens have fumbled eight times in its first two preseason games (four in each) – second-most in the NFL.

They lost three against the Carolina Panthers (one of which was returned for a touchdown) and one versus the Washington Redskins.

The perpetrators are as follows: Marc Bulger (twice), Joe Flacco, Ray Rice, Donte’ Stallworth, Jalen Parmele, Troy Smith and Curtis Steele.

“It’s not rocket science,” said Stallworth, still a bit riled up two days after his fumble. “I just have to hold onto the ball.”

Rice was also frustrated because he said he knocked the ball out of his own hands Saturday night.

Rice committed just two fumbles his rookie season and none in the Ravens’ first 11 games in 2009. But he put the ball on the turf in three of the Ravens’ final five regular season games and again in the Divisional playoffs.

Three fumbles, including the one versus the Colts were in the red zone. Baltimore lost every game but one in which he fumbled.

“It’s a mindset,” Rice said. “I carried the ball maybe 900 times in college, and on one hand I can count how many times I [fumbled].

“The NFL is a lot different.  You’re playing against better players with better technique.  It’s just as easy as me saying I need to read a block better. A lot of mine are when I’m going down, and I can get that fixed. I don’t have to fight for extra yards. I don’t have to stay up. I’ve got to get what I can get, and get down from there.”

Cameron and the Ravens’ coaching staff did a study of every fumble in the NFL last year, trying to find the result, and discovered that most fumbles are caused by “the first guy hitting someone extremely hard,” not second or third hits.

Thus, there must be a balance struck between protecting the football when taking that first hit versus trying to gain extra yardage.

The first drill the Ravens’ offense did Monday morning worked on ball security. Players must sprint to a cone while holding a ball attached to a huge rubber band, which is tied to the field goal post.

“You’re carrying this entire state, all the Raven fans, [and] the entire organization; when you carry that ball, that’s who you’re carrying with you,” Cameron said. “I think we’ve got the technique squared away, but I think now we’ve just got to develop a mindset that under no circumstances, regardless of the hit, are we going to turn the ball over.”

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