“Oh yeah, my team is going to bounce back,” Webb told The Baltimore Sun. “Last year wasn’t that bad. A lot of people want to say it was bad just because we didn’t make the playoffs. We don’t usually not make the playoffs. A lot of people want to say last year was a horrible year, but it wasn’t a horrible year. There were a few games that left us out of the playoffs. We just have to learn from it. We have some young guys, and we just have to keep growing up with all those guys. I like where we’re at, and we just have to keep on going.”
You know what? Lardarius Webb is right.
All along, I’ve sat back and watch analysts and pundits underrate the Ravens, and bemoan their lack of leadership. But really, just as Webb said, last year wasn’t that bad.
Ravens fans might have known this. Consider this the update for everyone else.
After winning the Super Bowl, Ozzie Newsome made a conscious choice to rebuild. Granted, this rebuild was different than those experienced in Jacksonville or Cleveland, but they retooled at the least. And in a transitionary year, most are prepared for — even expect — a losing season. The fact that the Ravens were competing for a playoff spot, with such a confluence of circumstances working against them, is something that should be praised.
The young players are certainly sticking around. And with so many players on an upward trajectory — that is, expecting to round out their skill sets as they enter their primes — there is more than enough reason to be optimistic.
The Ravens only have ten players heading into training camp age 30 or older. That is out of 90 players.
If you were to tell me a team went 8-8 the previous season and is entering the current year with 89% of their players under 30 — returning all of their key players, and adding others — I would say that is a team on the rise. That’s a team to look out for.
With 74 tackles, 22 pass deflections and two interceptions last season, Webb now has his knees firmly beneath him and is ready to take on a season at full health. However, with all the personal success he’s grown accustomed to, he remains a one-track record — team, team and team.
“My goals are I just want to get back on track with where the Baltimore Ravens are supposed to be,” said Webb, who’s entering the third year of a five-year, $50 million contract. “I really don’t have any individual goals. A year of getting back to the playoffs and playing in a Super Bowl are all of my goals.”
If the Ravens are going to get to the Super Bowl, they’ll need some of those young players to take that next step. Part of Ozzie’s retooling process involved letting some reliable veterans go, one of whom — Corey Graham — was a battering mate of Lardarius Webb. But just like Webb got his opportunity, and so many other Ravens before him, he is very confident the incumbent youngsters will perform when called upon.
“Don’t sleep on those guys,” Webb said. “I keep saying don’t sleep on Chykie, but don’t sleep on Asa Jackson. Asa Jackson is coming, just know I said that.”
But just in case those players don’t fulfill expectations, Newsome — as it is his duty to do — has made sure there are contingency plans in place. After inviting them a handful of veteran cornerbacks to Owings Mills for a minicamp tryout, the Ravens signed Aaron Ross and Dominique Franks. Ross, the former New York Giants starter and first-round pick, and Franks, a former Atlanta Falcons fifth-round draft pick. Ross played for current Ravens secondary coach, Steve Spagnuolo, when in New York.
“It’s good to have depth around there because injuries do happen,” Webb said. “It’s good to have guys like Franks and Ross who can play ball and are proven. It’s good to have those guys, cool guys, glad to have them.”
So both Lardarius Webb and I are in the believer boat. We have that in common. And although our relationships with the team differ in magnitude, we share similar sentiments about the coming months.
“I can’t wait,” Webb said. “I know it will be a tough camp, but I’m ready for it. I’m very excited about getting out there on the field with the boys. They’re like my brothers.”
I’m just here for the ride.