The Ravens' revamped secondary has gotten a good deal of attention this offseason. Free agent addition and hometown son Domonique Foxworth is being projected as the no. 1 cornerback. Chris Carr was a productive return man in Tennessee and could bolster the special teams unit. Even undrafted rookie K.J. Gerard has generated some buzz in the early stages of the offseason.
But it could be Lardarius Webb who catches people by surprise in 2009.
Webb, a third-round pick from this year's draft, has flown largely under the radar during his first two months as a Raven. It may be because he comes from Nicholls State University, which is not typically known as a college football powerhouse.
But it may also be because of a strained hamstring which limited him for much of Organized Team Activities (OTAs).
During the first minicamp of the offseason, Webb tweaked his hamstring, and though it was minor, it slowed him down and forced him to wear a red mesh top during drills as a precautionary measure.
He worked with team trainer Bill Tessendorf* *from the get-go so that by the time rookie camp came around, it was a non-issue. Take away that small obstacle, and Webb's name might have been mentioned more prominently throughout OTAs.
Still, the Ravens' coaching staff has caught on to the rookie's potential, even if the media and fans have not.
"Webb is doing a nice job," said head coach John Harbaugh during last month's rookie camp. "He showed a lot of quickness and has a good understanding of the defense for a rookie."
Webb's presence on the field helped the team progress through the final OTA of the year, largely because of his ability to play various positions. It's his versatility that the Ravens coveted so much when they drafted him 88th overall.
"The fact that he plays safety and corner is going to be helpful throughout his career," Harbaugh spoke of the recently-converted cornerback.
Webb primarily played safety in college, but is being transitioned to corner for the Ravens. Despite the setback with his hamstring, he has progressed nicely according to the coaching staff.
Which isn't to say he won't be expected to slide back into his old role at some point.
While Foxworth is largely a speedy corner and Carr specializes as a return specialist, Webb may be able to fulfill multiple roles as he did in college. He played the traditional cover role, returned kickoffs and punts and played gunner on special teams. He even stepped in at quarterback on one occasion, a position he played in high school.
Webb is the only player in NCAA Division I history to be named the Offensive, Defensive and Special Team Player of the Week in one season. He finished his college career with 106 total tackles, three sacks, and seven interceptions. He also amassed 1,485 return yards on kickoffs and punts, running three back for touchdowns.
Webb's adaptability and knack for finding the football will likely be a boon for him once training camp rolls around, and could garner him playing time in the regular season. The Ravens love impact players, and Webb's potential to be one in Baltimore may remind some of Webb's idol, Ed Reed.
Webb's playmaking abilities will also be a real plus in a position competition that is likely to head deep into the preseason. Cornerbacks Foxworth, Carr, Samari Rolle, Fabian Washington, Evan Oglesby, Frank Walker and Derrick Martin are all aiming to make the team.
"We've got more corners than can probably make our team, if you look at it," Harbaugh said. "There will be great competition in Training Camp, and if we do have some injuries, we'll have guys that can step in and do it."
Though it's too early to tell what the roster will look like and who will make the biggest contributions, Lardarius Webb has made his mark early on, despite the lack of attention. He'll compete for time in both the secondary and special teams, given his flair for all areas of the field.
If Webb can resemble the playmaker he was in college on a professional level, as the Ravens believe he can, then he is a player fans and media won't overlook for long.