Lardarius Webb Brutally Honest About Being Targeted

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With Jimmy Smith slated to start opposite him, cornerback Lardarius Webb thinks he has a good idea of who opponents are going to throw at this year.

"They're going to come to me first," Webb said without hesitation. "Then when they get through trying me, then they might try him. They're going to come to me first to make sure I'm good."

And why does Webb think that?

"I just had a couple down years, so if they're smart they should come to me first and try me first. Then they'll go back over," he said.

If nothing else, Webb was brutally honest following Thursday's training camp practice. He's once again trying to get back to his previous form, and he knows he's going to have to prove it himself.

Three years ago at this time, Webb was in line to be the Ravens' next defensive pillar. He was coming off his best season with 15 starts, 67 tackles, 20 passes defensed and five interceptions and just signed a lucrative five-year contract extension.

Now Webb is coming off an offseason in which he took a paycut while Smith was the one signing a new contract extension.  As Webb said himself, he's had a pair of subpar years.

It began when he tore an ACL for the second time midway through the 2012 season, knocking him out of the Super Bowl run. Webb returned in 2013 to start 16 games and was targeted by opposing quarterbacks a lot. Last year, a back injury knocked him out of training camp and essentially the first four games of the season. He started 11 games, made 46 tackles, eight passes defenses and one pick.

According to Pro Football Focus (PFF), Webb was the 78th best cornerback in the league last year with an overall grade of negative-4.7. By comparison, Smith had the 20th-best grade with a positive-6.6.

There were only three games in which Webb and Smith were on the field together. In those games, per PFF, Webb was targeted 24 times and allowed 17 completions for 171 yards. Smith was targeted 20 times and gave up nine catches for 95 yards. Neither surrendered a touchdown.

Now the Ravens have another window with both corners starting at the same time.

"With Jimmy healthy and me too, we can lock down the outside," Webb said. "That means the defense can do a lot of different things. We're kind of the key to this defense with what [Defensive Coordinator] Dean Pees likes to do. So if we can be healthy and get all the corners playing good, we can do more."

"Healthy" is the significant word, and that's unfortunately proven to be a big "if." Webb didn't make a positive first impression in that regard.

Webb told Head Coach John Harbaugh he was taking care of himself this offseason, despite not participating in Organized Team Activities. Then he showed up for training camp and failed his conditioning test, citing additional weight as the reason.

"Not being out there on the first day kind of looked bad for me trying to be the leader in my secondary and the group," Webb said.

Webb passed the next day, and hasn't had any health issues since. He's practiced every day.

Webb said he doesn't think about the injuries. He believes there's a reason for them, to deliver him to this point in his career and given him the knowledge and heart to overcome adversity. Webb tries to go out and be himself.

Now it's a matter of finding out who that self is at this point. He's impressed Harbaugh and quarterback Joe Flacco so far in training camp.

"More like the old Webb," Harbaugh said. "He's moving around well. He's competing. [He has] quickness, ball skills, all the things that make 'Webby' the corner he is. He looks good out here."

"I remember last offseason, he was doing some things, not doing somethings and you could tell he wasn't quite back to himself," Flacco added. "This year he seems like he's back. He's confident, he's healthy and I'm excited for him because he's a really good player."

Webb's confidence is clear. When asked for his thoughts on his own prediction on whether opponents will test him early and often, he smiled. He's slated to tangle with Peyton Manning and the Broncos on Sept. 13 to open the season.

"Come on, I'm ready," Webb said. "I'll definitely be ready this year for anything they have come at me."

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