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Lardarius Webb Stepping Up After Getting Challenged


Lardarius Webb could hardly keep his train of thought when talking with reporters after Sunday's victory over the Miami Dolphins.

He tried to tune out several teammates yelling at him from behind the cameras, but he gave way to a few chuckles at all of the shouts of "Lardarius Reeeeeed" led by teammate and defensive back Anthony Levine.

The comparison to Ravens great Ed Reed was appropriate given Webb's ball-hawking interception in the 38-6 victory. Webb looked a lot like his old mentor when he showed off his range to streak across the end zone, rip the ball away from the receiver and keep himself in bounds despite a big collision. 

It was exactly the kind of play that the Ravens hoped they would get from him when converting him to safety this offseason.

"Oh man, that was amazing," marveled fellow safety Eric Weddle. 

Webb is in his first season as a full-time NFL safety, and he's come on strong in the second half of the season. Weddle shared with the media that the Ravens actually challenged Webb about a month ago to elevate his play, and he's answered that call by playing his best football of the year.

"Making the transition from corner to safety is hard enough as it is, but we put a lot of pressure on him about four, five weeks ago and said, 'Hey, you've got to pick it up. You've got to be a great player for us,'" Weddle said. "He's responded; he's been playing outstanding football for us."

Since the bye in Week 8, Webb has been one of the team's best players. Outside linebacker Terrell Suggs is Baltimore's only defender to have a higher overall Pro Football Focus grade than Webb during that stretch.

In those last five games, Webb has racked up an interception, a sack, four passes defensed and 25 tackles. He had 19 tackles, one pass defensed and no takeaways in the first seven games of the year.

"I just keep pushing, I just keep doing my job," Webb said. "It's not about me, it's about the team, so I'm always doing my job."

Having Weddle by his side is also a nice benefit. Weddle, a 10-year veteran, is one of the league's top safeties and wasted no time establishing himself as one of the leaders* *of the Ravens defense.

Weddle is also known as a tireless worker with a knack for film study, and Webb has appreciated the perspective from his new teammate.

"Every day, I'm just learning from Weddle," Webb said. "He's teaching me different disguises, and just teaching me how to play safety. You can tell that I'm learning, and picking up on more and more stuff each week."

Webb's strong performance against the Dolphins helped illustrated how far the Ravens secondary has come since last season. Signing Weddle and moving Webb to safety has solidified a group that gave up far too many big plays last season, and the Ravens have allowed the fourth-fewest big plays in the league this season.

The Ravens defense, which ranks No. 1 in yards allowed, has also displayed a knack for the football. After coming up with just five interceptions all of last season, the Ravens picked off Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill three times Sunday to give them 14 interceptions this year.

"We've been preaching about turnovers, turnovers, let's get multiple turnovers, and let's try to score." Webb said. "Today we came up big on turnovers."

Check out the best photos from M&T Bank Stadium as the Ravens battle the Dolphins in a pivotal AFC matchup.

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