Lardarius Webb: Washed up, or comeback candidate for Ravens in 2015?


Jan 3, 2015; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Markus Wheaton (11) runs with the ball as Baltimore Ravens cornerback Lardarius Webb (21) attempts the tackle in the second quarter in the 2014 AFC Wild Card playoff football game at Heinz Field. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Lardarius Webb was once an ascending player in the NFL ranks, appearing destined to become one of the very best cornerbacks in the league.  He made an impact right off the bat, playing in 14 games in his 2009 rookie season and grading out as the 22nd best corner (out of 107) in Pro Football Focus’ rankings.

The next two seasons brought even more improvement.  In 2010, Webb recorded his first two NFL interceptions, playing in 15 games and also racking up 9 passes defensed.  2011 saw his interception total climb to 5, and he racked up an outstanding 20 passes defensed.

Webb ranked as PFF’s 4th best corner in 2011, by far his finest season.  It looked like the young man was on his way to absolute stardom as a true lockdown corner.  Then, a serious of myriad injuries completely derailed his career.  Things haven’t been the same since.

We’ve seen it a million times in the NFL.  Some players manage to stay healthy for years, some even their entire career.  Others just can’t seem to shake the bug.  It’s aggravating for fans, but it’s pure hell for players.

After fighting through back spasms last offseason and missing most practices and the entire preseason, few probably expected Lardarius Webb to even play much in 2014.  But he did, and the results left a lot to be desired.

Dec 28, 2014; Baltimore, MD, USA; Baltimore Ravens defensive back Lardarius Webb (21) breaks up a pass intended for Cleveland Browns wide receiver Andrew Hawkins (16) at M&T Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mitch Stringer-USA TODAY Sports

Webb finished out as the 78th best corner out of 108, giving up 58 receptions on 89 targets for 770 yards (13.3 avg), 3 touchdowns, and a 99.0 passer rating.  He recorded one interception and 3 passes defensed. The Ravens, facing a plague of injuries in the secondary, had no other choice than to rely on him.

But outside of his poor performance against the Steelers in the Wild Card round of the playoffs, Webb got better as the season progressed.  He capped if off with a (quietly) strong performance against the Patriots in the divisional playoff round, giving up only 2 catches for 14 yards and a 58.3 rating.

So can we expect continued improvement in 2015?  Webb is confident that he can return to his past form, even though he knows that opposing quarterbacks will be targeting him instead of Jimmy Smith, the Ravens other starter at corner and one of the NFL’s best.

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“Come on, I’m ready,” Webb said after a recent training camp workout. “I’ll be ready. I’ll definitely be ready this year for anything that they have to come at me.”

“They’re going to come to me first.  Then when they get through trying me, then they might try (Smith). They’re going to come to me first to make sure I’m good.”

If Webb is even competent this coming season and can stay healthy, the Ravens will field an imposing secondary.  They are giving Webb at least one more chance to do so after negotiating a straight pay cut this offseason.

Which version of Lardarius Webb shows up in 2015 will likely determine not only his future in Baltimore, but the Ravens’ hopes of another Super Bowl title as well.

Next: 3 Ravens on the roster bubble

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