Webb em­braces, grows into new role at safety

Once back­stopped by Reed, he’ll do the same for oth­ers

Baltimore Sun - - SPORTS - By Ed­ward Lee

The Mil­ford Mill foot­ball team showed Fri­day that it’s not how you start that mat­ters, but how you fin­ish.

With a 20-point fourth quar­ter, the Millers ral­lied past No. 10 Dun­dalk, scor­ing As a young cor­ner­back build­ing a ca­reer the go-ahead touch­down with less than with the Ravens, Lar­dar­ius Webb en­joyed two min­utes left for a 27-22 vic­tory. the com­fort of know­ing that what­ever

Else­where in the metro area, No. 2 hap­pened on the field, free safety Ed Reed Arch­bishop Spald­ing could not take down was be­hind him to help the de­fense make a pow­er­house Good Coun­sel, and Glenelg stop. routed River Hill. With Reed re­vis­it­ing Bal­ti­more as an COV­ER­AGE PG 6 as­sis­tant de­fen­sive backs coach for the Sea­son opener Sun­day, 1 p.m. TV: Chs. 13, 9 Ra­dio: 97.9 FM, 1090 AM Line: Ravens by 3 SUN­DAY: Check out our 64-page Ravens/NFL sea­son pre­view sec­tion Buf­falo Bills in Sun­day’s sea­son opener at 1 p.m. at M&T Bank Sta­dium, Webb will be­gin his first full NFL sea­son at the po­si­tion his for­mer team­mate mas­tered. This time, Webb will be the se­cu­rity blan­ket for young cor­ner­backs such as Sha­reece Wright and Will Davis, and rook­ies Tavon Young and Mau­rice Canady.

“He made me feel a lit­tle bit se­cure be­cause I knew he was on the back end and he was back there polic­ing,” Webb, 30, re­called of Reed af­ter Thurs­day’s prac­tice. “Now I feel like I get to po­lice for Sha­reece and them. Just be­ing on top, help­ing them out a lit­tle bit, mak­ing them feel com­fort­able as a safety who can get side­line to side­line. Any­thing I can do to make them feel bet­ter and com­fort­able at their po­si­tion, I’m down for it.”

Play­ing safety is not an un­fa­mil­iar as­sign­ment for Webb, who started at strong safety for much of his se­nior year at Foot­ball Cham­pi­onship Sub­di­vi­sion Ni­cholls State. When the Ravens used a third-round pick in the 2009 NFL draft to take Webb, he con­verted back to cor­ner­back.

In 2015 — his sev­enth year as a pro — Webb made seven starts at left cor­ner­back op­po­site right cor­ner­back Jimmy Smith. He also slid to nickel back when Wright made five starts at left cor­ner­back.

In the team’s fi­nal two games, Webb started at free safety, mak­ing five tack­les and break­ing up two passes.

Safety has be­come the po­si­tion du jour for cor­ner­backs seek­ing to ex­tend their ca­reers. Rod Wood­son, Deion San­ders and Charles Wood­son tran­si­tioned from cor­ner­back to safety, with vary­ing de­grees of suc­cess.

DeAn­gelo Hall switched to safety in Novem­ber for the Wash­ing­ton Redskins, and for­mer Raven Corey Gra­ham moved to safety last sea­son in Buf­falo. Bills coach Rex Ryan, a for­mer Ravens de­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor, ac­knowl­edged the dif­fi­culty of mak­ing the po­si­tion change.

“Ev­ery­thing’s dif­fer­ent,” Ryan said dur­ing a con­fer­ence call with Bal­ti­more me­dia this week. “An­gles are dif­fer­ent, the way you study tape is dif­fer­ent. So it’s a chal­lenge cer­tainly for any­body mak­ing that move.”

The pre­sea­son was Webb’s first work­ing pri­mar­ily out of the free safety po­si­tion. Phys­i­cally, he is re­spon­si­ble for a larger ex­panse of the field com­pared with shad­ow­ing a sin­gle re­ceiver as a cor­ner­back. There’s also the men­tal ad­just­ment of be­ing the de­fen­sive cap­tain of the sec­ondary.

“Yeah, I’ve got to know the en­tire de­fense,” he said. “As a cor­ner, you’re just look­ing for the safety, and he tells you what you’ve got. Nowthey look at me when some­body gets to mov­ing, and I’ve got to tell them where they’re go­ing to next.”

De­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor Dean Pees said he has en­joyed watch­ing Webb grow in his new role.

“I think he’s more and more com­fort­able ev­ery day back there,” Pees said. “It gives a lit­tle bit of a sit­u­a­tion where you can al­most play him as a third cor­ner if you have to, be­cause he has played it so much. He played nickel. With the ad­di­tion of [strong safety Eric Wed­dle] back there ... and Ken­drick Lewis — those three guys have re­ally kind of meshed. ... I feel good about the safety po­si­tion.”

Wed­dle, a 10-year veteran who signed as a free agent March 16, quipped that Webb has asked “a lot of ques­tions.”

“He is ex­tremely hum­ble,” Wed­dle said. “He brings a lot of en­ergy, a lot of laugh­ter to our meet­ings. ... When he is out there, he is tal­ented. He is fast. He is healthy. He had a cou­ple sea­sons of deal­ing with in­juries, but he looks fan­tas­tic. He is start­ing to see the field more as a safety. So many years as a cor­ner, you are locked in on a guy and the first few weeks, he was see­ing too much. Now he is let­ting it come to him. We ex­pect a big sea­son from him and [for him] to make a lot of plays on the ball.”

Smith said Webb’s pres­ence gives the cor­ner­backs room to be ag­gres­sive with op­pos­ing wide re­ceivers.

“He brings … knowl­edge to the game,” Smith said. “The tran­si­tion is only go­ing to help his in­tel­li­gence. Be­ing at safety, you see a lot more than you see at cor­ner. So I feel like him mak­ing that tran­si­tion is go­ing to be eas­ier for him.”

Af­ter seven years as a cor­ner­back, Webb might be melan­choly about miss­ing that role. But he has found a home at safety.

“I like this. I don’t miss cor­ner,” he said. “Man, I love cor­ner. That’s what made me. It’s a com­pet­i­tive po­si­tion. Now I get to do it all. I feel like it fits my skill set a lit­tle more.”

On Sun­day, Webb will ex­change pleas­antries with Reed. But Webb said he would never put him­self in the same cat­e­gory as the all-butcer­tain Hall of Famer.

“Ed is Ed,” Webb said. “I never want to be com­pared to Ed Reed. I’m not Ed Reed. I’m nowhere near Ed Reed. He’s a leg­end. He was my fa­vorite player. But I’m Lar­dar­ius Webb. I get to come back and play safety and do what I al­ways wanted to do. I’m not try­ing to be Ed. That’s kind of im­pos­si­ble. I just want to be the best Lar­dar­ius Webb.”

GAIL BUR­TON/AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Lar­dar­ius Webb (21) moves in as Ravens out­side line­backer Al­bert McClel­lan tack­les Pan­thers wide re­ceiver Ted Ginn in a pre­sea­son game Aug. 11.

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