PLEASE NOTE: The opinions, analysis and/or speculation expressed on BaltimoreRavens.com represent those of individual authors, and unless quoted or clearly labeled as such, do not represent the opinions or policies of the Baltimore Ravens' organization, front office staff, coaches and executives. Authors' views are formulated independently from any inside knowledge and/or conversations with Ravens officials, including the coaches and scouts, unless otherwise noted.
For the first time since he left in 2005 to lead the San Francisco 49ers, former Ravens defensive coordinator Mike Nolan will return to Baltimore this weekend.
Nolan is now the defensive coordinator of the Denver Broncos and a major factor in his new team’s undefeated record.
Denver’s defense is playing lights-out after Nolan exacted an overhaul. Eight of the Broncos’ 11 starters are different than the group that started last year.
They have gone from being the fourth-worst defense last year to the NFL’s second-ranked unit this season, only allowing 262.5 yards per game.
Even though Ravens head coach John Harbaugh did not personally coach with Nolan, who served as Baltimore’s coordinator under Brian Billick from 2002-04, he has a lot of respect for the Broncos coach.
“He’s a tremendous coach,” Harbaugh said on Monday. “He had a great run here and is a proven defensive coordinator in the league. What they’re doing is pretty special. They’ve added some key parts. I think the sum is greater than the parts right now when you look at them, the way they’re utilizing the players.
“They’ve had great leadership from Brian Dawkins, who has a history of that. They’ve got a lot of talent up front. They’re playing fast. They’re playing hard. They’ve got a nice scheme. It’s impressive what they’re doing on defense.”
Dawkins is another interesting Baltimore connection. Well, maybe more like Philly.
Harbaugh served as the Philadelphia Eagles’ special teams coordinator from 1998-2006, and then switched to secondary coach in 2007.
Dawkins, a 14-year veteran, was an Eagle for all of Harbaugh’s tenure.
The seven-time Pro Bowler was signed by Denver this past offseason and is currently third on the team with 38 tackles.
Harbaugh said it wouldn’t be strange to see Dawkins in another color uniform. That is, unless the Broncos wear their throwback brown-and-yellow uniforms that they donned from 1960-61.
Called by many the ugliest in the NFL, the threads feature vertical striped socks that many players twist to look like earth-toned barber poles.
The Broncos only wear those when playing another 50th-anniversary team, so Ravens fans won’t have to endure them at M&T Bank Stadium.
“The only uniform that feels strange, looking at them, is that brown one with the striped socks. That looked very strange,” Harbaugh joked. “But it was still Brian Dawkins under that uniform, and you could tell in the way he played. He’s played as well as ever.
“He’s the emotional leader of that defense. He’s blitzing. He’s dropping back. He’s covering. He’s in run support and he’s deep – all the things he’s ever done when he played with the Eagles.”