This time a year ago, Lardarius Webb was developing into one of the better cornerbacks in the NFL when he tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee in a Week 6 victory. Webb was playing so well at the time, I wrote that losing him was more significant than losing Ray Lewis, who was also hurt that week.
A year later, Webb is back in the starting lineup with six games under his belt, but he understandably is not playing at the high level he had been before the injury, when it looked like he might make the Pro Bowl.
Webb was targeted nine times in Sunday's 19-17 loss to the Green Bay Packers, according to Pro Football Focus, and he allowed six completions for 128 yards, including a 64-yard touchdown from Jordy Nelson. On the play, he let Nelson run right by him for an easy touchdown. After the game, Webb said the Ravens were in quarters coverage, which left him alone on the outside, but added he thought he would have help.
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According to Pro Football Focus, it was the first time Webb had been beaten for a touchdown in coverage since 2010.
Through six games, Webb has been targeted 40 times and has allowed 25 receptions for a team-high 384 yards and a touchdown. Opposing quarterbacks have a 102.5 passer rating when targeting him, according to Pro Football Focus.
Only five NFL defensive backs have been beaten for more yards in coverage than Webb, who has uncharacteristically allowed 132 yards after the catch this season, as well.
Webb hasn’t publicly used his reconstructed left knee as an excuse, but it was probably unrealistic to expect him to be fully back to his old shut-down self right out of the gate.
What Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson did last season was an anomaly, yet he has raised expectations for how a modern professional athlete should perform a year after an ACL tear. Webb acknowledged back in July that he had watched Peterson’s superhuman feats from afar, but he said that everyone’s bodies heal at their own rate.
Still, he said then, "I think I can be Lardarius Webb again.”
He’s not there yet, though he could still be by season’s end.