AFC North: Lardarius Webb

OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- There has been increased talk this week about defensive tackle Haloti Ngata's uncertain future after the Pro Bowl defensive lineman was suspended four games for taking performance-enhancing drugs. But the struggles of another veteran could put the Baltimore Ravens in an equally difficult position this offseason.

It's tough for the Ravens to justify paying Lardarius Webb $8 million next season (which is tied for the sixth-highest base salary for a cornerback) given his play this season and injury history. The Ravens, however, would only create $2 million in cap space by cutting him after the season.

The other factor is the Ravens would only deplete a thin cornerback group even more if they released him this offseason. The most logical solution is getting Webb to agree to a pay cut, which would help reduce his $12 million salary-cap number in 2015 (which ranks only behind quarterback Joe Flacco and Ngata).

The decline in Webb's play has come at the wrong time for the Ravens, who have allowed 1,322 yards passing and 13 touchdown passes this month.

Last season, Webb was the 19th-ranked cornerback by Pro Football Focus who broke up 22 passes (second-most in the NFL) and only allowed 57.3 percent of the passes to be completed against him. This year, he is the 107th-ranked corner who has six passes defensed and has allowed 72.2 percent of the passes to be completed against him.

"There have been a lot of ups and a lot of downs," Webb said. "But hey, man, adversity -- you have to just put that stuff behind you, you have to keep fighting. I’ve been through things when I have been down. That’s just my career. You just have to keep fighting, and that’s what I’m telling my boys in the back end. Stuff is going to happen in this league, every week is not going to go your way, but you come back the next day and you have to be ready to fight. And my boys are going to be ready to fight.”

With such a drastic falloff, some wonder whether Webb isn't fully healthy. He missed three of the first four games of the season with a lower back injury.

“I feel good now. I felt good as we are coming past this last month," Webb said. "I feel awesome. I’m just happy to be on the field. I’m just ready to go out and make more plays for my defense.”

BALTIMORE -- The Baltimore Ravens' 21-7 victory over the Tennessee Titans on Sunday was inspired by an emotional speech from the most experienced player in the secondary and was stamped by a crushing blow by their youngest defensive back.

The result was one of the most dominating performances in the Ravens' storied history of defense. Over the last three quarters, the Ravens recorded more sacks (five) than first downs allowed (four). In the second half, the defense gave up 45 total yards (fifth-fewest allowed in a second half by a Ravens defense) and never let the Titans get any closer than 60 yards from the end zone.

The Ravens made Zach Mettenberger look like a rookie quarterback making his first road start in the NFL, and some will roll their eyes at the Ravens' staggering defensive numbers because of that. But this was only a week removed from the Ravens allowing six touchdown passes to Ben Roethlisberger, and no one was more fed up than cornerback Lardarius Webb.

On Wednesday, Webb stood up in the defensive backs meeting room and got something off his chest.

"He's been here and it's a tradition where the secondary just plays ball," cornerback Anthony Levine said. "You could tell in his eyes that he was tired of what was going on and he was just like, 'We need to step up and make some plays.'"

The player who stepped up was certainly a surprise. Rookie safety Terrence Brooks, who was inactive last week after allowing a game-changing play the previous week, broke up a pass to tight end Delanie Walker and apparently broke the Titans' desire to go over the middle as well.

With about two minutes left in the first half, Brooks leveled Walker by putting his right shoulder into him and causing Walker to land on his back without the ball. It knocked the Titans' leading receiver out of the game with a concussion, and the Ravens feel it sent a message to the rest of the Titans.

"It really changed the impact of the way receivers started running routes," Elvis Dumervil said. "I think anytime a guy gets hit like that ... it really made guys think of running back there."

Before that hit, Mettenberger was 11-of-16 (68.7 percent) for 116 yards and one touchdown. His passer rating was 110.4.

After the hit, he was 5-of-11 (45.4 percent) for 63 yards and one interception. His rating was 25.9.

"As a team, we want to have a certain standard to be physical," Brooks said.

The Ravens improved to 9-3 against rookie quarterbacks under coach John Harbaugh with a pass rush that rattled Mettenberger. With Dumervil and Terrell Suggs crashing the edges, the Ravens recorded five sacks and hit Mettenberger a total of eight times.

They also ended a two-game losing streak with a makeshift secondary that included Anthony Levine, a reserve safety who didn't know he was starting at cornerback until a few hours before the game.

Secondary coach Steve Spagnuolo sent Levine a text message that read: "Be ready." Levine initially didn't know what that meant.

"I've been waiting for this for a long time," said Levine, who led the Ravens with two passes defensed. "To call myself a starting something in the NFL -- whether it was safety or corner -- I was happy to say that."

This was an important win for the Ravens because of the circumstances. The Ravens had gone from the top to the bottom of the division in two weeks. They learned that they lost their top cornerback, Jimmy Smith, three days ago.

On a day when the Ravens' offense and quarterback Joe Flacco provided little help, the defense was the catalyst that closed the Ravens (6-4) to within a half game of the first-place Cleveland Browns (6-3).

"This is a tough squad," Webb said. "They always say, 'Play Like A Raven.' That means playing tough and being resilient."
PITTSBURGH -- An argument can be made that Baltimore Ravens cornerback Jimmy Smith is the most valuable player on the team after Sunday night's 43-23 loss at Heinz Field.

In their first game without their top cornerback, the Ravens allowed Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger to throw six touchdown passes, nearly matching the total they allowed in the first eight games of the season (a league-low seven).

Smith

The Ravens' strategy was to drop seven into coverage, but they still couldn't stop the Steelers receivers from running free. Roethlisberger threw five touchdowns against four or fewer pass-rushers Sunday, matching the most in a game in ESPN Stats & Information's data set (since 2006).

"We are missing a great player, but we are capable guys in the secondary," cornerback Dominique Franks said.

On Sunday night, it looked like the Ravens had slow guys in the secondary. Franks and safety Darian Stewart watched Martavis Bryant get open against their zone defense for a 19-yard touchdown in the second quarter. Lardarius Webb was too late to get out of his backpedal and let Markus Wheaton get separation for a 47-yard touchdown in the final minute of the first half. In the fourth quarter, Chykie Brown was easily beaten by Antonio Brown for a 54-yard touchdown, and Franks and Will Hill were late to converge on Bryant for a 18-yard score.

None of this should come as a surprise. It was more a validation of their worst fears. Webb missed three of the first four games because of a back injury. Franks wasn't in the league for the first five weeks of the season. And Chykie Brown was benched after the season opener when he gave up the winning 77-yard touchdown pass to A.J. Green.

There was hope that safety Hill, who was suspended for the first six games of the season, would provide a lift for the secondary. In his first start, Hill didn't make much of an impact and was stiff-armed by Antonio Brown on his long touchdown.

The Ravens forced the Steelers into three three-and-outs in the first quarter because they were able to get pressure on Roethlisberger. There was one series when the Ravens sacked him on three straight plays.

Once Roethlisberger got time, the Ravens' secondary was no match for the depth and speed of the Steelers' receivers. It marked only the second time in his 18 meetings with the Ravens that Roethlisberger threw more than two touchdowns in a game.

"You could have never sold me on that during the week," linebacker Terrell Suggs said. "He had a heck of a day, and that is a reflection on us all."

So, when will Smith return? He went through the Ravens' locker room on Friday on crutches with his foot in a protective boot. Even though the Ravens haven't given a specific timetable on Smith, he likely won't be back for Sunday's game against the Tennessee Titans. Smith has a better chance of returning after the bye the next week.
OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- A.J. Green didn't practice Wednesday, and there's a good chance that the Cincinnati Bengals star receiver will be listed as questionable for Sunday's game against the Baltimore Ravens. But, in the mind Ravens cornerback Lardarius Webb, there's not a question of whether Green will line up against the AFC North leaders.

Green
Webb
"He's playing," Webb said before the reporter could finish his question about Green. "It's a big game. He likes challenges. He's a great receiver. He's going to have to have a broken leg not to come on this field."

The status of Green will have a major impact on whether the Ravens retain first place or the Bengals complete a season sweep. Recent history says so.

No player has more receiving yards against the Ravens in the past five years than Green (465 yards). In the last three meetings, Green has caught 18 passes and averaged 114.3 yards.

Green has been the biggest big-play nuisance for the Ravens. Since the start of the 2013 season, the Ravens have given up nine passes of longer 50 yards and Green has caught three of them -- all of which went for touchdowns.

Each of those touchdowns have meant something:
  • On Nov. 11, 2013, his 51-yard touchdown on a Hail Mary sent the game into overtime.
  • On Dec. 29, 2013, his 53-yard touchdown against safety Matt Elam put the Bengals up 7-6 in the first quarter.
  • On Sept. 7, 2013, his 77-yard touchdown against cornerback Chykie Brown put the Bengals ahead for good in the fourth quarter and came 48 seconds after the Ravens took the lead.

How much of an impact does Green make on the Bengals' offense? In four games with Green, quarterback Andy Dalton has a 100.3 passer rating. In two games without him, Dalton's passer rating is 75.6.

Webb said he would rank Green among the top three wide receivers in the game.

"He can catch no matter where the ball is at," Webb said. "He runs great routes. He understands the game. He's a competitor, [and] that's No. 1."
BALTIMORE -- Here are three predictions that I guarantee (well, feel very strongly) will happen Sunday when the Baltimore Ravens (4-2) play host to the Atlanta Falcons (2-4) at M&T Bank Stadium.

Flacco
 1. Joe Flacco will lead the winning drive in the fourth quarter. This is more of a gut feeling because the game has the makings of being a trap one. The Ravens are coming off a blowout win in Tampa Bay, and they have a big game at the first-place Cincinnati Bengals the following week. The Falcons come to town on a three-game losing streak. That's why this game will be closer than what many think. Matt Ryan led the last-minute drive against the Ravens in the last meeting. Flacco repays the favor here with his first fourth-quarter comeback at home this season.

2. Lardarius Webb gets his first interception of the season. Jimmy Smith got his first pick last Sunday, and Webb will get his chance to do the same against the Falcons. Ryan has thrown four interceptions to the right side of the field this season, which is tied for the fifth-most in the league. That's a favorable stat for Webb, who defends that side. Also, unlike Tampa Bay's Mike Glennon last week, Ryan is smart enough not to test Smith. Most of Ryan's passes will be directed at Webb and the Ravens' No. 3 cornerback (presumably Dominique Franks). Webb hasn't had an interception since last season's finale in Cincinnati.

3. Bernard Pierce scores a couple of touchdowns. The Falcons have given up a league-worst 12 rushing touchdowns this season. How bad is that? No other team has allowed more than seven. In fact, the Falcons have given up 11 rushing touchdowns from inside the 10-yard line. When the Ravens get that close to the end zone, they typically turn to Pierce. While Pierce hasn't been a big part of the Ravens' offense recently, he still tops the team with six carries from inside the 10-yard line. He has more size than Justin Forsett, which likely plays into the Ravens' strategy here.

How did my predictions fare last week?

Prediction: Flacco will throw multiple touchdown passes. Result: Couldn't have been more right on this one. Flacco threw five touchdowns ... in the first 16 minutes, 3 seconds.

Prediction: Jimmy Smith will get the Ravens secondary's first interception of the season. Result: Right again. Smith picked off Glennon's pass on the Buccaneers' opening series.

Prediction: Torrey Smith will have his best game of the season. Result: Smith scored touchdowns on the first two series and finished with a season-high four catches.
When Baltimore Ravens cornerback Lardarius Webb stepped onto the field, Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck certainly knew it.

Webb
On Webb's 44 plays Sunday, he was targeted 10 times by Luck, according to Pro Football Focus. Webb had the most passes thrown his way of any Ravens defender, and only six cornerbacks were targeted more Sunday. It started on the game's second play, when Webb was beaten on a slant by Hakeem Nicks, and the passes kept coming.

Webb led the Ravens' defense in catches allowed (seven) and yards (91). Luck's passer rating against Webb was 98.3.

"I just got to keep knocking off the rust and keep getting better," Webb said.

Webb looked better than his rough four plays two weeks ago in Cleveland, but he's not close to where the Ravens need him to be.

His struggles began in training camp, when a lower back injury on July 25 sidelined him for the entire preseason. He has been inactive for three of the first four games of the regular season, before seeing his most extensive playing time Sunday.

The Ravens haven't listed him on the injury report for the past two weeks.

"It looked like he played OK," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. "He looked healthy. That was good to see."

Webb, who has the team's fifth-highest salary-cap number at $7.5 million, has yet to start a game this season.

INDIANAPOLIS -- Baltimore Ravens linebacker Terrell Suggs and cornerback Lardarius Webb are both active for Sunday's game against the Indianapolis Colts.

Suggs was listed as questionable with a thigh injury after missing the first two practices of the week. He is looking for his first full sack of the season.

Webb is in the lineup after being a healthy scratch last Sunday. He hasn't been on the injury report for two weeks, and coach John Harbaugh said he needed to prove he was in better shape in order to be active.

Defensive end Chris Canty was ruled inactive after being listed as doubtful with an illness. He didn't make the trip to Indianapolis. It's only the second time he has missed a game since joining the Ravens in 2013. DeAngelo Tyson will make his third career start, replacing Canty.

RAVENS INACTIVES

DE Chris Canty, LB Arthur Brown, OT Eugene Monroe, OG John Urschel, TE Phillip Supernaw, DT Timmy Jernigan and WR Michael Campanaro.
OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- It's not an injury issue any longer for Baltimore Ravens cornerback Lardarius Webb. In order for him to get back on the field, he has to prove to coach John Harbaugh that he's in better shape.

Webb
A lower back injury sidelined Webb for the entire preseason and the first two games of the regular season. But, after looking stiff in his first game back on Sept. 21, he was a healthy scratch for Sunday's 38-10 win over the Carolina Panthers.

The Ravens are paying Webb $205,882 per week whether he's active or not. Harbaugh said he'll have a good idea by the end of the week whether Webb will be ready to play at Indianapolis, but he won't reveal Webb's availability until Sunday.

"It could very well be this week," Harbaugh said about Webb showing improved acceleration. "I'm sure hoping this week. I want to see it this week."

With Webb out, the Ravens started Asa Jackson alongside Jimmy Smith and moved Matt Elam from strong safety to nickelback in passing situations. It's important for the Ravens to get back Webb for the Colts, who've gone with at least three wide receivers on 164 snaps (ninth-most in the NFL).

"It'll be based on how he practices and how he looks, just in terms of getting his acceleration and his burst back," Harbaugh said. "The things that everybody saw that weren't quite there. Then, he tells me that he's healthy now and he says he feels healthy. It's just a matter of that strength, quickness and burst, which should come back fast. Anybody that's ever trained, if you've been in great shape, you get back into shape pretty quickly."

When Elam covered the slot receiver, rookie third-round pick Terrence Brooks got his first defensive snaps of the season Sunday. He played 35 snaps and held up well in coverage. Harbaugh was impressed with Brooks' ball skills.

"He plays fast and has got a good sense for the ball back there," Harbaugh said. "He played well and merits more playing time."
BALTIMORE -- Despite not being listed on the injury report, Baltimore Ravens cornerback Lardarius Webb is inactive for Sunday's game against the Carolina Panthers.

Webb was on the injury report for the first three weeks of the season with a lower back issue, and he was inactive for the first two games of the season. In his first game back last Sunday, Webb looked slow and struggled in coverage. Ravens coach John Harbaugh indicated at the time that Webb would get a chance to work through the injury.

The Ravens have three cornerbacks active: Jimmy Smith, Asa Jackson and Chykie Brown. Strong safety Matt Elam has played nickelback in passing situations, and Jeromy Miles takes Elam's spot at strong safety.

Defensive end Chris Canty, who was questionable with a knee injury, is active.

Week 4 Ravens inactives

CB Lardarius Webb, OT Eugene Monroe (knee), WR Michael Campanaro, LB Arthur Brown, G John Urschel, DT Timmy Jernigan and DE Lawrence Guy.
Observed and heard in the locker room after the Baltimore Ravens' 23-21 victory over the Cleveland Browns:

Smith
Give him the ball: Wide receiver Steve Smith was asked whether he knew he was going to get the pass just before he made the clutch 32-yard catch that put the Ravens in range for the winning field goal in the final minute of the fourth quarter. "When I line up, I think there is no better option than myself," Smith said. "That's how I practice. That's how I play."

Key adjustment: Asa Jackson provided a major momentum swing when he came off the edge and blocked Billy Cundiff's 36-yard field goal attempt in the middle of the fourth quarter. He gave a nod to special-teams coordinator Jerry Rosburg, who told Jackson during the middle of the week to switch pushing off from his right foot to his left foot. It gave him a better angle to the ball. "It ended up working out," Jackson said. "I saw the ball go. I just ran and jumped, and luckily it looked like Billy kicked it low and I was able to get a piece of it."

Half speed: Cornerback Lardarius Webb still looked like his lower-back injury was bothering him in his first game of the season. Even though he didn't start and he played limited snaps, Webb looked like he could barely move. "You can never really push something because he hasn't played much," coach John Harbaugh said. "He is coming off injury in the lower back, and he's going to have to play full speed and get his wheels back. I saw the same thing. He's going to have to get his wheels back. Hopefully, we can play him back."

Ravens' impressive record with Webb

September, 21, 2014
Sep 21
12:38
PM ET
CLEVELAND -- The Baltimore Ravens will have cornerback Lardarius Webb in the lineup Sunday for the first time this season, and history says that's a major development.

Webb
The Ravens are 28-13 (.683) when Webb is in the starting lineup, and they're 9-1 (.900) when he intercepts a pass.

Webb was sidelined for the entire preseason because of a lower-back injury, and he was inactive for the first two games of the regular season despite fully participating in every practice leading up to the game.

The Ravens' secondary significantly improves with Webb, who will start alongside Jimmy Smith. The question now is what the Ravens will do at nickelback. The Ravens could go with Asa Jackson, who is active after suffering a concussion last game, or safety Matt Elam.
Baltimore Ravens starting running back Bernard Pierce is listed as questionable for Sunday's game at the Cleveland Browns despite having full participation in Friday's practice.

Pierce, who is dealing with a thigh injury, was added to the injury report on Thursday when he was limited in practice. He has now been listed on the injury report on a dozen weeks (including being listed as questionable four previous times), but he has never missed a game in his NFL career.

The Ravens started Pierce for the first two games of the regular season, and he's expected to remain the starter since the team released Ray Rice. If Pierce is sidelined, the Ravens would start Justin Forsett and go with rookie Lorenzo Taliaferro as the backup.

It's looking like cornerback Lardarius Webb (back) will play his first game of the season after being listed as probable. He was inactive for the first two games, but he was listed as questionable each time.

Quarterback Joe Flacco is listed as probable after having full participation the past two days. He missed Wednesday's practice with an illness.

RAVENS INJURY REPORT (WEEK 3)

Doubtful: DT Timmy Jernigan (knee, did not practice Friday)

Questionable: RB Bernard Pierce (thigh)

Probable: QB Joe Flacco (illness), CB Lardarius Webb (back), OT Eugene Monroe (knee), CB Asa Jackson (concussion)

CB Webb out again for Ravens

September, 11, 2014
Sep 11
7:35
PM ET
BALTIMORE -- The Ravens will be without their top cornerback for the second consecutive game.

Lardarius Webb won’t play tonight against the Steelers because of a back injury. Chykie Brown will start at left cornerback in the 8:25 p.m. ET game at M&T Bank Stadium.

Webb is the only starter who won’t play in the first Steelers-Ravens game of the season.

The Steelers are without No. 3 wide receiver Lance Moore (groin) and rookie running back Dri Archer (ankle) because of injuries.

Joining them on the Steelers' inactives list are wide receiver Martavis Bryant, nose tackle Daniel McCullers, guard Chris Hubbard, offensive lineman Wesley Johnson and quarterback Landry Jones.

Joining Webb on the Ravens’ inactives list are linebacker Arthur Brown, guard Jah Reid, wide receivers Deonte Thompson and Michael Campanaro, defensive tackle Christo Bilukidi and guard John Urschel.
Baltimore Ravens cornerback Lardarius Webb is listed as questionable for Thursday night's game against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

It's the second straight week that Webb has been questionable with a back injury. He missed the season opener after full participation in every practice, and he didn't miss any practice time this week.

If Webb is out, the Ravens will start Chykie Brown in his place. If Webb can play, he'll start alongside Jimmy Smith and Asa Jackson is expected to be the team's nickelback.

Pro Bowl guard Marshal Yanda is listed as probable with a foot injury. He didn't practice Monday but he had full participation the past two days.

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