With Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning set to throw to the trio of Thomas, Decker, and prized free-agent pickup Wes Welker, the Ravens figure to play extensively in the nickel package.
That makes the health and readiness of cornerback Lardarius Webb critical for the Baltimore defense, and Harbaugh suggested Sunday there are no limitations on the fifth-year defensive back in his comeback from last October’s torn ACL.
“Lardarius is ready to go. He looks good,” Harbaugh said. “He’s practiced well, he’s played well. I just think the guy is amazing in everything he’s done. I love him to death. Nobody works harder. He’s been great, and he’s going to play really well.”
Webb appeared in only one preseason game in August, taking 17 defensive snaps against the Carolina Panthers on Aug. 22, but that was by design as the Ravens didn’t want to rush him back to the field in fear of a setback after he suffered his second ACL injury in four seasons.
It will be interesting to see how defensive coordinator Dean Pees handles the nickel package as Webb would slide to the inside in the past. However, fellow starting cornerback Corey Graham is effective playing inside at the nickel spot, so the Ravens could elect to keep Webb at an outside corner spot opposite 2011 first-round pick Jimmy Smith in the pass-conscious packages.
“Their receivers – they do it all. They’ve got big, strong guys that can get downfield,” Harbaugh said. “They’ve got double-move guys. They’ve got crossing-route guys. They all do everything well. Then, of course, with Wes [Welker] underneath, they’ve had that element in their passing attack last year as well.”
Ravens understand anger over Flacco decor at Mile High
Much has been made about the NFL’s decision to raise banners of Flacco around Sports Authority Field at Mile High in Denver, but the Ravens have taken the high road by empathizing with Broncos fans’ frustration.
The league clearly wanted to promote its second biggest game-centric event of the year but failed to acknowledge it also being a home game for Denver. Some of the posters have even been defaced in protest, with Flacco seemingly amused while reminding everyone he had nothing to do with the league’s decorations.
“It’s kind of like high school,” Flacco said. “You remember some people going to take flags from kids’ houses and stuff like that. I didn’t do that — the players didn’t do that. It’s all cool. Being hated is not a bad thing.”
Of course, that hate has much more to do with the 70-yard miracle touchdown Flacco threw to Jones in the closing seconds of regulation to force overtime in the Ravens’ divisional-round win over the Broncos in double overtime.
While Harbaugh said he couldn’t care less about the Flacco banners being displayed in Denver, the theme conveyed by several members of the organization was that Baltimore wouldn’t be happy if an opposing team’s player was featured on banners and posters outside M&T Bank Stadium.
“I can’t envision that, and I don’t really understand it, and I understand why the Broncos and their fans would feel the way they do,” Harbaugh said. “I know it will have no bearing whatsoever on the football game.”
Poking fun at Lewis
Flacco made headlines when acknowledging this offseason that he often didn’t understand what retired linebacker Ray Lewis was saying in his passionate speeches to the team in their time playing together.
However, the sixth-year quarterback made it clear that those comments were made in a good-natured way — even if there was truth in his message.
“I always mess with him and say that kind of thing personally and in interviews,” Flacco said. “I’m half joking [when talking about his speeches]. Like I said, I joke with him personally about it, too. When I do say those things, I’m not 100 percent serious.
“I’m just poking fun at Ray Lewis a little bit just to show that he can be poked fun at.”