PITTSBURGH, PA - NOVEMBER 06: Antonio Brown #84 of the Pittsburgh Steelers has a pass defended by Ladarius Webb #21 of the Baltimore Ravens during the game on November 6, 2011 at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)
One of the biggest surprises this season has been the play of Ravens starting cornerback Lardarius Webb. Webb was picked 88th overall by the Baltimore Ravens in the third round of the 2009 NFL Draft. A former high school quarterback and college safety, Webb was considered a project for the Ravens when drafted. In his rookie season Lardarius showed himself to be a sure tackler and special teams ace as a returner but after only four games suffered a knee injury and was placed on Injured Reserve. Although this ended his rookie campaign, the team saw enough in him to consider him in their future plans on defense.
In 2010 Webb returned to the field but was noticeably slowed by the injury to his knee but as the season progressed so did he. Baltimore's secondary was considered the weakness of the team. However, the steady play of Josh Wilson and the game-by-game progress of Webb began to solidify the unit. This allowed Baltimore to blitz more and leave their corners in one-on-one match-ups. Webb was still adjusting to the speed of the NFL and he occasionally got beat but he also proved to be a play-maker.
Here are some of a number his 2010 highlights:
(15/0, 2/0) Established career highs with 60 tackles, 11 PD and 2 INTs (returned for 32 yards)...Also handled 21 punts for 199 yards (9.5 avg.)
• Posted a career-high 9 tackles (all solo) and 2 PD (one of which led to an Ed Reed INT and a FG 7 plays later) for a defense that forced 5 turnovers in the 13-7 victory in game 16 vs. Cin. (1/2/11)
• Tied for the team lead with 7 tackles for a defense that held the Saints to 27 yards rushing (fifth-fewest allowed in franchise history) in the 30-24 victory in game 14 vs. NO (12/19)
• Posted 5 solo tackles, 1 PD and his first career INT (returned for 32 yards) for a defense that forced 3 turnovers in the 26-10 win in game 8 vs. Mia. (11/7)
Now here we are in 2011 and Webb has shown to be not only our most consistent corner but perhaps the biggest play-maker in our secondary at the moment. That is saying a lot considering he plays in the same secondary with, all time great and future Hall Of Famer, Ed Reed. Sure, he may still get beat here and there but his big play ability can not be denied. Lardarius stands at 5'10" and weighs 182 pounds, many quarterbacks may look at him as a mismatch when lined up across from larger receivers but nobody scares Mr. Webb, just ask Braylon Edwards. He continues to lay the wood and out play larger receivers. This season Webb has 55 tackles, four interceptions with 77 return yards, 14 passes defended and a touchdown. Those sound like Pro Bowl numbers to me but he was largely unknown through out the league until recently. Lardarius is quickly becoming 'Mr. Prime-Time' as a national audience seems to bring out the beast in him.
Last season our secondary was considered the chink in our armor but thanks to players like Webb and Cary Williams stepping up this season it has become a position of strength. With first round pick Jimmy Smith starting to see more time on the field we are looking very deep as well. As Rex Ryan always said "you can never have enough good corners". Ozzie and the Ravens are once again turning a position of weakness into one of strength and if Webb can keep up his progress we may have another Pro Bowl-er on our defense.