OWINGS MILLS — Baltimore Ravens cornerbacks Lardarius Webb and Jimmy Smith are constantly competing.
They like to compete in video games. They like to compete in practice. And more so than anything else, they like to joke with each other about which one is the Ravens’ better corner.
“You have no idea how much,” Smith said after an organized team activity (OTA) Wednesday. “Webby lives up the street from me. This is non-stop 1A-1B. We go back and forth all the time about who is better, but it’s all friendly love. … We know we’re not taking each other’s spots. It’s just one of those [things].”
The reality is Baltimore is happy it’s even an argument.
A year ago at this time, Smith, a 2011 first-round pick, had yet to live up to expectations or even establish himself as a viable starter.
A year later, Smith is coming off a breakthrough 2013 season.
Webb is about 18 months removed from knee surgery and is ready — in his words — to return to being the high level player he was pre-injury.
And while the Ravens may have some question marks pertaining to their roster, that starting cornerback tandem of Webb and Smith is not one of them.
“The cornerback position is a big strength for us,” coach John Harbaugh said after the season.
Webb struggled some early last year as he worked back from the torn anterior cruciate ligament he suffered in 2012, but he started to return to form during the second half of the year.
He received a negative grade from Pro Football Focus for the first eight games, a -3.3, but he received a highly positive grade for the final eight games, a 10.6.
To put the grade into perspective, Tennessee Titans cornerback Jason McCourty received the 10th-highest grade for cornerbacks from PFF for the season. His grade was a 10.2.
“It was about the middle of the season [before I felt normal],” Webb said. “At first, I was just trying to get the trust back again. I couldn’t plant when I wanted to, couldn’t do the things I wanted to do, couldn’t jump. Everything just wasn’t as fast as I wanted it to be. And then, towards the end of the season, it just started coming back natural as I kept working on it.”
Prior to the injury, many around the league felt Webb was beginning to establish himself as one of the league’s top cornerbacks, and Webb said he feels even more like the pre-injury Webb than he did at the end of the season.
“[The knee] feels good,” Webb said.“It feels more bouncy. [I’m] just happy to be on the field running around with no pain.”
Smith will look to build on last season.