BALTIMORE, MD - DECEMBER 24: Lardarius Webb #21 of the Baltimore Ravens intercepts a Cleveland Browns pass as head coach John Harbaugh of the Ravens motions from the sidelines during the first half at M&T Bank Stadium on December 24, 2011 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
Baltimore Ravens corner Lardarius Webb had a truly breakout season in 2011. Many Ravens fans have seen this coming for a while now. Webb has always shown flashes of greatness. Ever since the Ravens drafted him in the fourth round he has exceeded expectations. Webb is a sure tackler that can play in the slot or line up wide against taller, speedy receivers. Not to mention his great play as a return man on special teams.
Webb first grabbed my attention with his play against the Pittsburgh Steelers Pro Bowl receiver Mike Wallace. Wallace has been a thorn in the side of the Ravens since he was drafted and quickly took over as the number one receiver when the Steelers parted ways with Santonio Holmes. Webb covered the speedy Wallace very well when matched up in man coverage. He fares well when playing against taller receivers even though he stands at only 5'10" tall.However his specialty is in the slot. Lardarius can be truly dominant when covering the slot receiver which will continue to come in handy as the NFL passes more and more. With the slot receiver position becoming more and more prevalent due to outstanding players like Wes Welker, Percy Harvin and Jeremy Maclin having a dominant trio of corners is a must in today's NFL. It is not as easy as you would think to be able to come inside and cover the slot guy after lining up out wide mostly. The interior is congested and you have picks and blockers to deal with. This can be hard for a smaller, lighter corner.
Last season Webb finished the season with 67 tackles, five interceptions, a sack and a forced fumble. There is no reason to believe he cannot produce similar numbers in 2012 no matter where he lines up. Although Webb is an outstanding punt returner, hopefully those duties will be delegated elsewhere this season. This would keep him more fresh during games and obviously lessen his risk of injury. He will be there if we need him though. Ever ready to do what his team needs of him.
I can't wait to see how the secondary looks this season. Jimmy Smith, Cary Williams and Webb lead a very talented young group of corners held together by two of the best safeties in the game in Bernard Pollard and Ed Reed. Wasn't it just a year or two ago that everyone was calling the Ravens secondary the weak link of the team? Yeah, not so much any more...