At the end of last season, it was uncertain whether Lardarius Webb was going to be part of the team in 2017.
Now, it appears Webb will be a key player in the secondary.
With Tavon Young out with a season-ending knee injury, Webb has thrived at slot cornerback. For now, Webb is the favorite to win the starting job over the injured Maurice Canady and rookie Jaylen Hill, who has also been impressive.
Webb was originally selected by the Ravens in the 2009 NFL Draft from Nicholls State. Since then, he has played cornerback, safety, punt returner and kickoff returner — skills valued by coach John Harbaugh.
“Lardarius is very, very valuable,’ Harbaugh said. “He’s having the best camp he’s had in awhile. I really love the way he’s playing, love his attitude, everything about what he’s doing. Leadership is part of it, but he’s doing it by example. He’s doing it by the way he practices and the way he plays every single day. That’s what speaks the loudest.”
Webb made the full-time move from cornerback to safety last season and started all 16 games. He finished with 73 tackles (59 solo), one interception, five pass breakups and one sack.
Webb was released after the Ravens signed veteran safety Tony Jefferson in March. The Ravens also created $5.5 million in salary cap space with Webb gone.
However, he later agreed to a restructured three-year deal to return to the team, underscoring his commitment to Baltimore.
“I’ve been a part of this for so long and I want to continue being a part of it,” Webb said. “I’m comfortable here, and I love the people that are here.”
That decision has been beneficial to both sides.
Ravens coach John Harbaugh has tried to temper some of the excitement with the defense.
Nonetheless, he will likely have to lean heavily on that unit to end a two-year playoff drought.
As the offense has looked unimpressive without quarterback Joe Flacco, the defense has run roughshod over both the Washington Redskins and Miami Dolphins in the first two preseason games, allowing 2.3 yards per carry and just 10 total points.
“There are some plays that we are going to build off of, and we are going to stack and stand on and improve from,” Harbaugh said. “There are going to be some other plays that we are going to look at, and we are going to not be happy with, we are going to be kind of ticked ourselves for, and that we are going to want to look at really closely and make sure they don’t happen again.
“If you are chasing something really, really good, that is the way you have to look at it – with a real critical eye – and that is what we will do.”
General Manager Ozzie Newsome prioritized the defense in the offseason, selecting a cornerback, two linebackers and a 300-pound defensive tackle with its first four picks in the 2017 NFL Draft. Baltimore also added depth to secondary by signing free-agent safety Tony Jefferson and veteran cornerback Brandon Carr.
That strategy has paid off. Now, the Ravens just need to keep their key players healthy and carry that momentum into the season opener Sept. 10 against the Cincinnati Bengals.
“We think we have a lot of good players,” Harbaugh said. “You talk about the back end on defense, and we do – we have them there. Even with the two injuries, you see that depth playing out, because those are the guys who are playing and they are playing well. It kind of speaks for itself. The fact that we’ve had two guys [CB Tavon Young and CB Maurice Canady] hurt, who were basically the [No.] 1 and [No.] 2 nickel, and really, we haven’t skipped a beat back there so far … Now, it’s preseason and all that, and we have to prove it in the regular season. Our guys understand that.”
The players, however, are not feeling greater sense of urgency because the team has not made the playoffs two years in a row. The key is to stay the course and not deal with extra pressure.
“It is business as usual,” defensive tackle Brandon Williams said. “When we come in here, we come here to grind. We know our mission, we know our goals, and we are here every day in the classroom or out here at practice trying to strive for them every day. The guys who can’t be out here, they are working to get back out here, and the guys who are taking their spots are getting better every day and working towards greatness. The show must go on no matter what.”
Ravens Cancel Practice Monday
The Ravens canceled Monday’s practice and media availability so the players and coaches could take part in an offsite team-building activity that included a tour of the Pentagon, the laying of a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, a visit to John F. Kennedy’s gravesite at Arlington National Cemetery and then lunch at Ft. Myer.
“Football is a meritocracy, and our team has worked hard throughout this offseason and training camp,” Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. “Our coaches appreciate and respect that effort. The team deserves a day away from the fields and meetings, and an opportunity to spend some time together away from the facility.”
When news broke the Ravens were getting a day off of practice, it was obvious the outing would not be related to the solar eclipse later that afternoon. Harbaugh was disappointed to learn only about 80 percent of the eclipse could be seen in Maryland.
“It is not 100 percent here? Eighty percent? That is not perfect,” Harbaugh joked. “We are chasing perfection here. You have to wear glasses or something, don’t you? I don’t want to blind anybody.”