Webb Looks To Be Worth Every Penny


August 11, 2009|By MIKE PRESTON

In April, the Ravens acquired one the best bargains of the NFL draft in Lardarius Webb.

Webb, a third-round pick out of Nicholls State, has proved he is one of the best athletes on the team. He could save the Ravens two spots on the final roster because he can play safety and cornerback and return kicks.

In camp, Webb has done them all pretty well.

"He might end up filling several roles on the field, and that wouldn't surprise me," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said recently.

He might eventually become the Ravens' shutdown cornerback.

"He has a very physical nature about him, and he has those types of skills," defensive coordinator Greg Mattison said.

At 5 feet 10, 175 pounds, he has great speed and quick hips that allow him to run with any receiver. He is physical enough to be a safety, and he studies how Pro Bowl safety Ed Reed covers so much ground. Webb appears to be a natural as a runner in the open field.

His only weakness is that sometimes he seems to lose the ball, or maybe it's just a lack of aggression when he is tangled up with a receiver.

But overall, he has been one impressive rookie.

Bringin' it

Ravens inside linebacker Ray Lewis is in his 14th season, but his enthusiasm for the game remains extremely high. He is still the first in line for drills and keeps the defense in line with his constant chatter.

It's an overused expression that teams play like they practice; most of them don't. But the Ravens practice just as hard in their individual units as they do in the team sessions.

A lot of it can be attributed to Lewis, and Reed. Lewis set the tone more than a decade ago, and everybody else has followed. You see a new player like cornerback Domonique Foxworth come to Baltimore, and he just steps in line. It's truly a unique situation.

A vote for Art

It was great hearing former Ravens safety Rod Woodson tell Pro Football Hall of Fame officials and several of the board of selectors that former Ravens majority owner Art Modell deserved to be in the Hall of Fame.

Most of Modell's former players in Cleveland and Baltimore would agree, and it took guts for Woodson to say it, with Canton being only a short drive from Cleveland.

But Woodson was always his own man. With him, you didn't always like his answers, but it was always from the heart.

Vick's baggage

The reason former Atlanta Falcon Michael Vick is having problems catching on with an NFL team has very little to do with his skin color, but with the position he plays.

If he were a cornerback or receiver, he probably would be back in the league. But it's hard to market a quarterback, especially a starter, with the baggage Vick is carrying around. For an owner, it's almost certainly a losing proposition.

Vick has to go to a certain market where the fans care only about winning but the media exposure isn't overwhelming. The first place that comes to mind is Seattle, or maybe Cincinnati or Kansas City.

Kicking contest

The kicking situation with the Ravens should be resolved soon with pre-season games coming up. So far, Steve Hauschka appears to be more consistent than rookie Graham Gano, but that could change with the pressure on and 40,000-50,000 fans cheering in the background.

Regardless, Harbaugh still has the red phone in his office hooked up to Matt Stover's direct line at home.

Grabbing attention

Despite all the forecast of gloom and doom, the Ravens' receiving corps has performed reasonably well in training camp. Second-year receiver Justin Harper has been outstanding, and Demetrius Williams has been consistent.

Tight end Todd Heap hadn't missed any practice until Monday morning with an injury and is having his best training camp in three years. The Ravens, though, need more consistency from young receivers like Ernie Wheelwright and Marcus Smith. Both have made some outstanding plays and then dropped very catchable balls.

Penalty phase

The Ravens preseason game against the Washington Redskins could be ugly.

Both teams have offensive lines that have been hampered by injuries. Barring some last-minute healing, both teams might have serious timing issues, way more than usual for the first preseason game.

Sounding off

Sometimes, you not only see where Ravens defensive tackle Haloti Ngata has been, but you also hear it.

Last Sunday in a pass rush drill, he dropped center-guard Chris Chester with a forearm that has as much power as one of those old George Foreman uppercuts. Chester went down, creating a big pileup on the way to quarterback Joe Flacco.

"We've got guys out there, you hear stuff like you're watching an Army movie or something - Haloti crashing into somebody, Kelly Gregg," inside linebacker Tavares Gooden said.

"And then you get those holes and those openings, and you just fill them in as a linebacker."

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