- Jamison Hensley, ESPN Staff Writer
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Ravens cornerback Lardarius Webb tore the ACL in his left knee and the Ravens are awaiting word on the test results on linebacker Ray Lewis' triceps injury, according to ESPN's Adam Schefter and Ed Werder.
If Lewis is done for the season like Webb, the loss of Webb still hurts the Ravens more than being without Lewis. While Lewis is the experienced and inspirational leader of the defense, Webb has emerged as one of top cornerbacks in the league. This is a void that the Ravens won't be able to fill for a pass defense that already ranks 23rd in the NFL.
Webb has become the top playmaker in the secondary with nine interceptions in the 24 games (including playoffs) since the start of the 2011 season. He broke up 31 passes over that span. What makes Webb even more valuable to the defense is his physical play. He ranked among the top three tacklers on the team this season and was the team's top blitzer from the cornerback spot.
The drop-off from Webb to Jimmy Smith is a significant one. Smith, the 27th overall pick of the 2011 draft, has yet to live up to expectations, which is why he failed to unseat Cary Williams. It would also make the Ravens more vulnerable at the nickel position. With Smith becoming a starter, Baltimore would turn to Corey Graham or Chykie Brown, who are better at running on special teams than defending the pass.
Webb, who signed a six-year, $52 million deal in April, tore the ACL in his right knee toward the end of his 2009 rookie season and was able to play at the start of the next season.
"It’s terrible to see your friend and teammate go down like that, especially with the type of injury he already had to overcome in his career," Smith said. "It's a big loss. Our hearts go out to him, but at the same time it’s next man up as always. It’s the NFL, you’ve got to go [forward].”
If the Ravens lost Lewis for the season or a significant portion of the season, it would be another hit for a struggling defense but it's not one that would devastate Baltimore as much. The Ravens could promote Dannell Ellerbe, who has split time with Jameel McClain this season and been among the team's top tacklers. And, honestly, the Ravens' run defense has been bad with Lewis and couldn't get much worse without him.
Baltimore showed that it could withstand the loss of Lewis in 2011. When he was out with a foot injury, the Ravens went 4-0, including a win over the 49ers, and held teams to 12.5 points per game.
Ravens coach John Harbaugh is expected to update these injuries at his 4 p.m. news conference.