49ers Central: Ravens' 'secret weapon' has Bay Area roots
The cameras sought out Tyrod Taylor, the Ravens' mobile backup quarterback to Joe Flacco, on Thursday.
The focus, however, should've been more about practice squad quarterback Dennis Dixon.
Dixon, who ran the read option while at Oregon from 2004-07, will get the lion's share of the work for the rest of this week and next as the Ravens prepare for Colin Kaepernick and the San Francisco 49ers in the Super Bowl on Feb. 3.
The read-option, which has proved almost unstoppable for the 49ers, comes natural to Dixon, who has yet to be active for the Ravens on game day.
"Yeah, Dennis will be a big part of that for us," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said Thursday. "He understands that scheme and reads and things like that so very valuable for us."
Dixon played the role of Robert Griffin III, who runs a similar offense for the Washington Redskins, going into Week 14. The Ravens lost 31-28 in overtime, but a depleted defense that didn't have linebackers Ray Lewis, Terrell Suggs and Dannell Ellerbe because of injuries and lost linebacker Jameel McClain in that game to a season-ending spine contusion, held Griffin to 34 yards rushing.
"Tyrod is good," Ravens defensive coordinator Dean Pees said about running the read-option to prepare last month. "Dennis Dixon is great."
Kaepernick ran for 415 yards in 8 regular-season starts for the 49ers. He ran for 181 yards and 2 TDs in a divisional playoff win vs. the Green Bay Packers a week ago.
Having already prepared for the uniqueness of the read-option gives the Ravens reason to be optimistic about their ability to make Kaepernick a pocket passer instead of a runner.
"He’s real good at it," Ravens defensive end Pernell McPhee said of Dixon. "You seen him on '07 when he was with Oregon?"
Then, Dixon was Pac-10 offensive player of the year as a senior running the read-option under then-coach Chip Kelly, who is now the head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles.
"That helped out a lot. That guy Dixon is the master mind of that," defensive end Arthur Jones said. "I have never seen anyone run it better, at the college level, than that guy. The guy’s a great team player. He went into our defensive line room and helped us out a lot when we played against the Redskins."