Joe Flacco has an engrained picture lodged in his brain of a striding blue No. 25. That’s what Flacco saw for about 50 yards as he chased second year cornerback Chris Harris down the sideline to end the second half in week 15.
Down 10-0, the Baltimore Ravens had the Denver Broncos right where they wanted them, on their 4-yard line with 34 ticks left in the second quarter. On first and goal, Flacco dropped back to pass and saw Anquan Boldin wide open for an easy score. Harris jumped right in front of the pass at the 2-yard line, however, and took it 98 yards to put the Broncos up 17-0 at halftime. That play didn’t just steal the first half, it essentially put the game out of reach for the Ravens, and left Flacco with a bloody lip after making a last ditch attempt to tackle Harris before he crossed the goal line.
“I’m impressed because he is able to pick a lot of things up and not make mistakes,” Champ Bailey said of Harris. “You usually see a lot of mistakes out of young players but he is as sharp as they come. I think what really helps is his attitude towards everything. He doesn’t think there is anything he can’t do. The guy has a great attitude. That’s how he approaches everything.”
Right cornerback had been a revolving door for the Broncos before Harris solidified his starting job in training camp, even beating out Drayton Florence for a spot on the team. Harris came into the league as an undrafted rookie out of Kansas last season, earning significant playing time down the stretch. This season, he out-shined an injured Tracy Porter to secure an on-going starting role.
Harris ended the 2012 season with two pick-6′s which made him the first Broncos’ player to record multiple pick-6′s in a season since Bailey.
“It’s about winning one-on-one battles,” Harris said following Tuesday’s practice. “That’s the only thing we have to do. Go out there and try to win our one-on-one battles.”
Harris finished the regular season with 61 tackles, 3 interceptions, 2.5 sacks, and 12 passes defended. He’s winning those one-on-one battles and beyond.
Perhaps one key to Harris’s success this season is the team’s overall success last season. In a building-block type of organization, last year’s playoff appearance helped players like Harris, Von Miller, Orlando Franklin, and others mature. They were able to shake off those playoff jitters during their rookie year which is an invaluable experience.
I would venture to say that I’m as comfortable with Harris at right corner as I would be with any other top-notch cover corner in the league. His performance and effort are on par with Bailey’s this season, and his knowledge is being cultivated daily because of Bailey.
Bailey has found his right hand man quite literally, and his name is Chris Harris.