Nov 2, 2014; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown (84) runs after a pass reception as Baltimore Ravens defensive back Will Hill (33) and cornerback Lardarius Webb (21) defend during the third quarter at Heinz Field. The Steelers won 43-23. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
The Baltimore Ravens secondary is obviously the biggest weakness on a team that appeared to be on its way to at least an AFC North title just a couple of weeks ago. The loss of top flight corner Jimmy Smith to injury put an exclamation point on this problem as the Ravens gave up a NFL record breaking six passing touchdowns to a red hot Ben Roethlisberger on Sunday night.
There is a lot of blame to go around, but at least one guy is earning his salary in coverage thus far. Will Hill, who saw his first extensive action of the season against the Steelers, proceeded to outplay everybody else in the defensive backfield. The Ravens did their best to ease Hill into action by giving him 24 snaps in week 7 and 12 in week 8, but his usage blew up to 63 snaps in week 9.
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While everybody else was getting burned repeatedly, Big Ben only targeted Hill twice. Hill did give up two receptions for 22 yards total, but outplayed everybody else, including those who played fewer snaps. Targets are always a good sign of who is doing a good job in coverage, and Hill was targeted less than anyone in the secondary except Matt Elam, who played only 28 snaps.
Will Hill fared even better against the run, recording three defensive stops among his four tackles. He graded out as the Raven’s third best defensive player in run defense, the third best in pass coverage, and the fourth best overall.
On the flip side, Lardarius Webb continued his sharp decline by posting his worst performance of the season. Webb graded out as the worst Raven’s defensive player in week nine, the worst in coverage, and was middle of the pack in run support while absorbing two penalties and playing every defensive snap.
The Ravens seemed pretty confident that Webb would return to his dominant former self this season while bookending a formidable corner duo with Jimmy Smith. Instead, he looks like a prime candidate to be cut in the coming offseason with his recurring back spasms, poor play, and bloated salary.
Webb has been relentlessly targeted the last five weeks as opposing defensive coordinators realize that he is a liability. The Steelers went after him an incredible 12 times (a team high) and he proceeded to cough up 105 yards and a touchdown on seven receptions. Opposing quarterbacks are enjoying a passer rating of 105.0 when throwing Webb’s way this season.
On the season, Lardarius Webb has given up 28 receptions on 41 targets (68.3%) for 373 yards and one touchdown. He is number 100 out of 108 qualifiers at the cornerback position this season per Pro Football Focus. It’s clear that Webb is a shell of his former self at this point, but unfortunately the Ravens have no choice but to keep trotting him out as they continue to reel from injuries.