Lardarius Webb and Ray Lewis’ Injuries Impact Ravens Differently – plus TV Networks already want Lewis
Everybody loves Ray Lewis. I love Ray Lewis. You love Ray Lewis. Well, maybe YOU don’t. But Ray Lewis is loved. So loved that the media waited until he tore his tricep and was officially out for the season to come out from under the covers and admit that he hasn’t been playing so well.
I would never go so far as to say that losing Ray makes the Ravens defense better, but I have seen a few who written as much. What I will say, however, is that the Ravens defense may get speedier and speed matters for a team that used to get 3 guys to the ball on many plays but now struggles just to get 1 there on time. The Ravens have struggled to rush to the QB, struggled in the middle of the field, and struggled to stop the run. This is not all Rays’ fault, obviously, but he has been the weak link on many more snaps this season.
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Baltimore’s defense finished 2011 in the top 3, they’re currently ranked 26. It’s about as steep a one year decline in preventing offensive efficiency as you can see in this league. Assuming Ray’s replacement doesn’t stink up the place, one could conclude that losing Ray is at the very least not a terrible thing for them. Plus, he’ll still be around to provide the unit with advice, pre-game speeches and the like.
I realize there’s no substitute for the experience he brings to the field and, to be honest, the comfort his teammates find in having him there. But if they can put together some good performances against solid teams I’d bet that the latter will matter much less within just a few games. Though admittedly, it will no doubt be tough to start that journey against the Houston Texans’ dynamic running back Arian Foster.
Since Ravens QB Joe Flacco said that mentioning retirement to Ray Lewis is like begging to be waterboarded, the injury might make subsequent conversations about his career a little bit easier for HC John Harbaugh and owner Steve Bisciotti. At least he can’t hit them with that one arm. haha jokes. see? funny.
Last year, I argued that it wasn’t time to sit Ray and I stand by that. I think it would have rocked the team and done more harm than good. A slow phase out starting with 3rd downs is more preferable and this year we began to see that. Unfortunately, another year took a bigger toll on Lewis than I would have personally predicted and those reductions were shaping up to be inadequate as was his strategy of losing weight to gain speed.
I’m sure I will write much more on Lewis later, but I’ll mention right now how dirty it feels to imply that Ray Lewis somehow doesn’t belong. It also makes me feel old and like the NFL that I grew to love is now a different animal. I know it is, but losing guys like Ray Lewis, and soon Carolina Panthers WR Steve Smith, and sooner than that Atlanta Falcons TE Tony Gonzalez is like scooping up my youth and running it through an incinerator.
Speaking of youth and bringing this back to the Ravens — losing CB Lardarius Webb for the season is tragic.
Webb is 27 and has now suffered his second ACL injury. This is a devastating loss not only for the Baltimore Ravens for whom he’s been a top performer but for NFL defensive back play in general. For the past two seasons Webb has been my favorite DB to watch and I believe he was (and hopefully still is) poised to compete with Darrelle Revis for best in the league. Revis is also 27 and has also torn his ACL–he underwent surgery yesterday. So if you are like me and are a huge fan of secondary guys this is a nightmare from a purely football perspective. You have the top two guys in their prime going down knowing that many never return to form after such injuries.
From the Baltimore Sun:
In five full games this season plus the limited snaps before he tore his ACL during the first quarter of Sunday’s 31-29 win over the Dallas Cowboys, Webb had been targeted by quarterbacks just 24 times, according to Pro Football Focus. In Week 2, Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Michael Vick didn’t even bother throwing his way once. On those 24 targets, Webb allowed just 11 receptions for 111 yards — a ridiculous average of 4.6 yards per attempt.
For comparison sake, let’s look at some of his fellow top-flight cornerbacks. Darrelle Revis of the New York Jets, who tore his ACL three weeks ago, allowed 5.5 yards per attempt in 2011. Chicago’s Chris Tillman is allowing 5.1 yards per attempt this season. St. Louis’ Cortland Finnegan is allowing 6.0. Arizona’s Patrick Peterson is at 6.1. Philadelphia’s Nnamdi Asomugha and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie are at 6.4 and 8.0, respectively.
Veteran Safety Ed Reed said he believes that Webb can return successfully as he’s seen guys like his former Miami teammates Willis McGahee and Reggie Wayne do so after major injuries. I hope Ed is right. The Ravens do have solid secondary players in Cary Williams, Bernard Pollard and Jimmy Smith in addition to Reed who began the season playing some of his best football. And as I wrote before, Cary has additional motivation to perform as every game is an audition for a contract with another team.
Still, there’s really no replacing a guy like Lardarius. The Ravens have some adjustments to make on defense and I’m looking forward to seeing what DC Dean Pees (who replaced Chuck Pagano who went to the Colts as HC) draws up for the game against the Texans. But I’d be remiss if I didn’t say that the defense has carried this team for years and it’s time for the offense to take the lead. Defense wins championships but offense wins games…or something. I don’t know, I feel like I needed a catch phrase that illustrates that games cannot be won without putting some damn points on the board.
It’s crazy how quickly we forget that despite the frequent overemphasis on quarterbacks. Right now, Baltimore is averaging a little over 26 points a game. They cannot let their feet off of the gas.
Back to Ray, apparently TV networks are already interested in him. I’d like to go on record as saying that I’m not ready for regular TV appearances from Ray Lewis. Also, for some reason, I just don’t see him commentating. Do y’all? I envision Ray Lewis making hundreds of thousands of dollars doing motivational speeches and spending time with his kids. I can sorta see him coaching I guess…but I see Ed Reed as a more obvious coaching prospect of the two.