ENGLEWOOD, Colo.** – While preparations for the first game of the 2015 season heats up, Baltimore Ravens head coach John Harbaugh and quarterback Joe Flacco talked to the Denver media Wednesday morning.
Questions for Flacco and Harbaugh varied from preparation for this Sunday's contest to whether or not Flacco thinks he is an elite quarterback, and what they're expecting from Denver. We listened and compiled four things that they said about the Broncos, starting with the pressure from the edge:
1. Ravens respect the Broncos edge rushers
Led by stout pass rushers DeMarcus Ware and Von Miller, the Broncos defense is coming off a potent 2014 season eager to wreck more havoc. Ware and Miller each rank in the top six in NFL history in sacks per game among players who have appeared in at least 40 contests since 1982.
Without a doubt, the Ravens have a stingy defense themselves, led by Terrell Suggs and Elvis Dumervil, but Harbaugh had nothing but praise for the Broncos' unit.
"They're excellent. It's as good as anybody in the league," said Harbaugh. "They have pass rushers. They have corners. They have stout guys inside. They have two excellent inside linebackers that play the run and the pass equally well. They have safeties that fly around and play all over the field. They have a nice dime package and a nice nickel package. It's a pretty complete defense."
Denver's "complete defense" can be attributed to the physical style that Defensive Coordinator Wade Phillips preaches in meeting rooms.
"Specifically, I think his pressures -- there's not a multitude of pressures, but they're just extremely well-organized," said Harbaugh of what makes a Phillips-coached defense so difficult. "That goes to a coach that really knows what he's doing. He knows when to call them, he knows the problems they cause offenses and he knows how to teach the techniques involved. He's just a great coach and we've never ever not had trouble with one of his defenses. We know that they're going to be a handful for us again coming Sunday."
2. Baltimore vs. Denver: A reunion of sorts
Like Head Coach Gary Kubiak has said many times, the longer you coach in this league, the greater the opportunity of going up against former teams. The Baltimore-Denver game is no different, with Kubiak and current Broncos Offensive Coordinator Rick Dennison, Assistant Special Teams Coach Tony Coaxum and Tight Ends Coach Brian Pariani wearing the Ravens' purple and black less than a year ago.
Flacco has been able to attribute some of his success last year to Kubiak's work as his Offensive Coordinator and Dennison as his position coach.
Quarterback and wide receiver drills lead off our practice gallery as the Broncos continue preparation for Sunday's season opener against the Ravens.
"…They just helped me play fast, play with a quiet mind, be confident and make quick decisions," Flacco said. "I think that our [offensive] line played really well last year under their protection scheme and I think that helped out a ton."
In addition to the four coaches finding a new home in Denver, safety Darian Stewart and tight end Owen Daniels were both Ravens in 2014 but now wear the orange and blue. For Baltimore, Stewart tallied 53 tackles, good for fifth on the team last season, while Daniels' 527 receiving yards ranked third.
When asked about the loss of Daniels, Flacco said he wasn't able to measure that loss.
"We have a lot of young guys right now at that position that I think are doing a really good job, but when you have a veteran that was able to come in and do what he did in the passing game and run game last year, it's going to be tough without him," said Flacco. "Like I said, we have some young guys that are stepping up to the plate and doing a great job. Owen is a great player and he's been a great player for a long time now. We'll definitely miss him, but I don't quite know how to measure [it]."
3. Anderson could have a breakout season like Forsett
In 2014, Ravens running back Justin Forsett rose from No. 3 on Baltimore's depth chart to a Pro Bowler. Under Kubiak's supervision and scheme as offensive coordinator, Forsett racked up 1,266 rushing yards, good for fifth in the league.
"He definitely is the author of the way that the scheme is run nowadays and the way we're running it," said Harbaugh of Kubiak. "He brought it in here. We had run the stretch zone here for a number of years before Gary got here, and Rick… and Rick just does a great job of teaching the offensive line the combination blocks."
This will be Anderson's first NFL season coming into the regular season as the starting running back. Last
season he too burgeoned after earning a starting spot later in the season and accumulated 849 rushing yards on 179 carries and eight touchdowns.
There's a possibility that Anderson, like Forsett, could flourish under Kubiak's direction – and Harbaugh thinks that could happen too.
"He's a downhill, one-cut, very physical guy," Harbaugh said of Anderson.
[He is] very similar to the backs -- not exactly like Justin, and different kinds of backs are good in this scheme -- but they've got two of them. Ronnie Hillman does it differently than C.J. does. I think they've got two guys with different styles that run the scheme very well."
4. Broncos fans make Sports Authority Field at Mile High one of the toughest venues
Harbaugh opened his press call with a bold statement: Sports Authority Field at Mile High is one of the toughest venues to play in the NFL. To many fans, this may seem obvious, but Harbaugh has been a coach in the NFL for over a decade and has likely seen it all.
"We have a lot of respect for those guys and tremendous respect for the talent and the players in Denver and incredible respect for the venue," Harbaugh said. "It's just one of the toughest places to play in the National Football League with great fans. It's just a big challenge."