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Healthy Lardarius Webb Aims To Return To 'Lockdown' Corner


In 2011, Lardarius Webb looked the part of a Pro Bowl cornerback.

That year, he wasn't coming off any injury, finally healthy. It led to his finest season, and a lucrative contract extension.

Now, for the first time since then, Webb is coming off a year without going undergoing surgery. In October, it will be two full years since his latest knee injury.

So will Webb return to his former self?

"I am capable of being a lockdown [cornerback], like I am," Webb said last week. "I'm just ready for the season and will just keep on working. I'm going to get back to where I'm supposed to be."

Webb first tore an ACL in late-December 2009, his rookie season. He returned the following year, but not as a starter, as he eased his way back.

In 2011, Webb broke out. He started 15 of 16 games and notched 67 tackles, one sack, five interceptions (including one for a 73-yard touchdown), 20 passes defensed and one forced fumble. The Ravens rewarded him with a five-year extension worth a reported $50 million.

Webb began the 2012 season well, but tore his other ACL in Week 6 while covering Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant. It was another season lost, another offseason of rehab.

Webb returned as a 16-game starter last year, but wasn't quite as dominant as he'd been in 2011. He logged a career-high 74 tackles and 22 passes defensed, and had two interceptions.

His slower start was in large part because he was building his knee back up. Webb said it wasn't until the middle of the season that he felt like his normal self.

"At first, I was just trying to get the trust back again," he said. "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."

The metrics prove Webb's point. According to Pro Football Focus (PFF), Webb had an overall grade of -3.3 through the first eight games. In the final nine games, he had a rating of 10.6 – a drastic difference.

Both of Webb's interceptions came in that second half of the season. Opponents targeted him less, especially after a strong showing against Cincinnati in Week 9, in which he had six passes defensed and an interception.

Now Webb said his knee feels more "bouncy" than before. He's literally got more spring in his step, and he's looking for a big year opposite Jimmy Smith.

"I'm just happy to be on the field, running around with no pain," Webb said. "I'm just trying to take over my leadership role that I can in the back end and just be me."

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