Corey Webster’s awful 2012 performance has been a hot topic all offseason among the New York Giants’ followers and fans. The hope was that the 31-year-old, who narrowly avoided being cut by Big Blue several months ago, would redeem himself in 2013.
Based on events during the first week of training camp, Webster’s rise back to respectability is not off to a good start.
An early injury—and an attitude not befitting a player coming off a down year—has opened the door for Aaron Ross. Ross is back with the team and rejuvenated after a year with the Jacksonville Jaguars, and may overtake Webster as the starting cornerback opposite Prince Amukamara.
The absence of the eight-year veteran gives Ross further momentum to potentially supplant him. I say further because Ross is off to a strong start in camp, looking quick and getting tangible results with interceptions and pass defenses.
The former Jaguar, who spent his first five seasons with the Giants, is happy to be back in New York. Playing for a losing team made him long to return to a franchise with a winning tradition. As you can see in the excerpt below, courtesy of Zach Schonbrun of the New York Times, he’s of the right mindset to have a strong 2013 campaign, even if he has ruffled some feathers along the way:
Ross said he sorely missed the winning mentality that runs inherently through the Giants’ locker room while the Jaguars suffered through a 2-14 season. He drew criticism recently for telling NFL Network that his stint in Jacksonville was like a “nice paid vacation,” referring apparently to the absence of pressure to perform there, unlike in New York.
But Ross has a different mind-set, with a one-year deal in hand and no playing time guaranteed. His teammates have already noticed a change.
“He seems like he’s a different person,” safety Antrel Rolle said. “He seems like an Aaron Ross that has something to prove.”
Ross is formidable competition for Webster. The 30-year-old started 15 of 16 games back in 2011 in his last season as a Giant. He accumulated a 1.4 Pro Football Focus rating (paid subscription required), playoffs included, over a robust 1,197 snaps.
This is only a slightly above-average performance, but certainly better than Webster’s 2012, which was bad enough to record a minus-11.3 PFF rating, fourth worst in the NFL among cornerbacks who played in at least 25 percent of their team’s defensive snaps.
Hearing Webster talk, you wouldn’t know he is coming off the worst season of his career. He extolled his own virtues a few days into training camp, before suffering the groin injury, to Ralph Vacchiano of the New York Daily News:
I still think I’m a great cornerback. I go out there and compete and work like the best. So yes, sir, you’re only as good as your last game, and that’s what people are going to talk about. I recognized that. But I still work the same way. Nothing fell off.
It is certainly fine for a player to be confident in his abilities, but it would be nice to see Webster acknowledge that he needs to improve after such a poor season.
Webster, however, goes further in his comments to Vacchiano, insinuating strongly that his teammates were partially to blame for his 2012 play:
I would never point the finger and say who was supposed to be here, who was supposed to be there. It doesn’t really matter. As a cornerback I was always taught to have short-term memory. But when I go back and look at the film I know who was supposed to be where. We are honest with each other, so it may have looked a little worse than it seemed.
Corey, you allowed 988 yards receiving, 330 of which came after the catch, and eight touchdowns. All of these numbers were in the bottom five in the league among cornerbacks. Your performance was as bad as it seemed.
Webster’s starting spot seemed safe coming into training camp, mainly because there appeared to be a lack of competition to push him. Ross’ hungry attitude and early play has suddenly changed this belief.
Webster’s health and attitude put him in a position of weakness in his newfound battle with Ross.
He is sidelined with an injury that does not appear serious but can linger. Assuming he comes back sooner rather than later, his mindset is not conducive to fighting to remain a starter. If he can’t be realistic about how he performed last season, how is he going to come to grips with the fact that his starting spot is not secure?
Webster is still atop the depth chart, and it is always easier to keep a job you already own. At this point, however, that is about the only thing he has going for him.
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