Some have high hopes for Nate Webster this season. Marvin has said that he plans to try and use him like he used Ray Lewis. Obviously there is only one Ray Lewis, but Nate was his succesor at MLB for Miami U after Lewis was drafted. Nate also started 6 games for the Buc's D last season, leading them in tackles for that stretch. Hopefully he can work out to be a big help for the Cincy Defense.
'Wildman' Webster ready to showcase his wares
------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Middle linebacker Nate Webster is the catalyst to the Bengals' new defense. --------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Column by The Post's Lonnie Wheeler
Just looking at Nate Webster, you don't see a whole lot. Not a lot of height. Not a lot of weight. Not a lot of Ray Lewis. When the football season starts, we'll probably see right away what moved Marvin Lewis to sign this imposing linebacker for five years and realign Kevin Hardy to make room for him in the middle. We'll probably see it in the preseason. As a backup to Pro Bowlers in Tampa Bay, Webster took the preseason very seriously.
Opponents got really mad at Webster in the preseason, the way he flew at them and took shots that are generally reserved for real time and rookies. Officials threw flags at him. Teammates called him a wildman.
But you don't see that just looking at Webster. Not yet. In May, in the Bengals' locker room, you pick it up only by listening to the man.
"They let the dog out of the cage," he says. "The dog is officially out of the cage."
He says this without menace in his eyes or malice aforethought. He says it as a man who loves football so much that he's at Paul Brown Stadium by 6:15 every morning, flipping on the light in the film room, studying every play of the NFL's 28th-ranked defense in 2003.
He says it as a man who knows that opportunity is coming right at him, dressed in gold, pads lowered, game on the line. There is no Derrick Brooks -- the NFL's Defensive Player of the Year in 2002 -- ahead of him now on the depth chart, no Warren Sapp or John Lynch to make a play.
Webster's new linebacker coach, Ricky Hunley, has called him "a tackling machine." His old linebacker coach, Tampa Bay's Joe Barry, had this to say to a Florida newspaper last year, when the irrepressible University of Miami product was in his fourth preseason of desperately searching for somebody to hit:
"Everyone sees this intense wildman. But the thing that Nate has that is overlooked a lot is that he has unbelievable linebacker instincts. Nate is wild and crazy and tough, but that's not why he's such a good linebacker. The reason he's so (darn) good is because he has such wonderful God-given instincts of a linebacker."
He got those, somehow, back in Liberty City, the part of Miami best known as the site, in 1980, of the first American race riot since the Civil Rights Movement. Eighteen people died and 855 were arrested. Webster was two. So was Chad Johnson, a neighbor Webster came to know at Northwestern High School.
When Webster was a linebacker for the Florida state champs -- he tried running back, but sprained his ankle and wanted nothing more of it -- Johnson, then a junior varsity player, used to hang around the varsity, doling out water and talking the way he talks. Then Webster stopped seeing him until his school played Miami Beach and a familiar face lined up at quarterback.
"Somebody mentioned something to me about how I punched Chad in the eye when we played," he says. "I couldn't remember it, but I went to Chad and it came back to me. I was mad at him because he was supposed to come to our high school."
Their similarities are more than geographical, and more than a mere coincidence of rostering. Both of them are hang-around-the-stadium, can't-get-enough-of-it guys. Both are inclined to, shall we say, articulate their ambitions in clear and colorful terms.
Johnson, who calls himself 7-11because he's always open, predicts touchdowns and victories. Webster is withholding that kind of bravado until he has put in a few games as a starter, but he is openly revved-up about being the guy calling and making the plays in the center of the Cincinnati defense.
"Initiating that fire," he says. "Burn, baby, burn."
It's a style and spirit on which Lewis is blatantly building. While the coach's first year with the Bengals brought eight wins and national acclaim, the defense wasn't what he had in mind. One season wasn't enough time to transform it into something like he had in Baltimore.
As a result, the offseason emphasis has been on speed and instincts and good men who get with the program; especially linebackers. Webster, it seems, is the prototypical New Bengal. Perhaps more than anyone else, he is the type of player on whom Lewis is hanging his hat.
Webster's Dictionary a quick read 6/13/2004 - 6-13-04, 7:15 p.m. BY GEOFF HOBSON Nate Webster never sold much of his peanuts, popcorn, and candy when he was a teen-aged vendor at the University of Miami football games. He’d sit down, instead, and have a sweet time watching Ray Lewis play middle linebacker.
“If they really wanted it,” Webster said, “they’d have to come to me to get it. My favorites were Ray and Warren Sapp. They still are.”
Webster is going after what he wants in his first year with the Bengals and his first year as a NFL starter with the same qualities that have fired Lewis’ Hall-of-Fame career in Baltimore. Indeed, Webster’s brand of sideline-to-sideline speed and chatty 60-minute emotion and leadership are two big pieces in Marvin Lewis’ offseason jigsaw designed to change the character of the defense from tentative and plodding to sleek and smart.
“Hey offense,” Webster sneered before the first play of a practice this weekend. “You ain’t going to get __ today.”
His new teammates have noticed the one saying from Webster’s Dictionary during their first month together:
** Continued from Homepage **
"Anybody can go to work," Webster said. "But you have to come to work."
Despite Sunday's steamy humidity, Webster had an all-out, blue-collar stubble going on his chin as the Bengals finished up their mandatory weekend minicamp.
“He has that kind of intensity where the other guys can feed off him because he’s very vocal,” said Kevin Hardy, whose move to strong-side linebacker made room for Webster in free agency.
“At times (last year) we probably could have used a little more emotion, especially because a lot of our games went down to the fourth quarter and that’s when you really need it, and there were times we didn’t have it. I think Nate is going to be the kind of guy that really gets guys going when we need to get rolling.”
Webster isn’t saying he’s Ray Lewis. But he’s also saying let’s wait and see. Who knows after four years with just six starts as a backup player in Tampa Bay to another Hall-of-Famer in Derrick Brooks?
Certainly Marvin Lewis isn’t saying it, and he should know as the man who developed Ray into the premier middle man of his era.
“Don’t say that. Don’t compare him to Ray Lewis. Let him be Nate Webster,” Marvin Lewis said. “He’s been everything we wanted and more. He’s showing command of the group. He has the presence in the locker both in the huddle, on the field and in the meeting room. He’s done all that. We’ve added a leader. Kevin and Brian (Simmons) did an outstanding job last year and we’ve added another guy who picks up and allows them to grow in other areas.”
Yet the Ray-Nate comparison on a style level can’t help but be made. Both played at Miami, but the 6-1, 245-pound Ray, 29, was gone when the 6-0, 237-pound Webster, 26, got there in 1997. Both play with their hearts on their sleeves and their names in the tackles column. Webster had 301 hits in just 22 college starts.
“He wants to prove he can be as good as everybody else,” Marvin Lewis said, and defensive tackle John Thornton looked in the huddle and said, “You can see he wants to be a great player.”
“I remember those days at Miami looking at the Ray tapes,” Webster said. “I’m thinking, ‘I can do that, I can run from side to side and I did it. His numbers and his records. He had a 20-tackle game and I know I had a couple of 20-tackles. I felt like I got a little backed up playing behind some people (in Tampa), but now I feel like I’m re-born. I’ve got a fresh start.”
Webster is the perfect face for a defense also getting a fresh start after its 28th finish in the NFL stats last season. Two of the holdovers who played their first season in Cincinnati last year, Hardy and Thornton, can see changes.
“Just by the personnel, it’s faster than last year,” Hardy said. “With Nate in the middle and (cornerback) Deltha (O’Neal) on the outside, it’s already a faster, more mature defense.”
Thornton likes the fact that anybody can say anything to anybody. And has.
“I think last year there was some soul-searching,” Thornton said. “The new guys came in and were afraid to step on the old guys’ toes and the older guys didn’t really know where they fit in with the younger guys, but we’re beyond that now.”
Webster gives the Bengals probably what they haven’t had since the Steve Tovar days in the mid-90s in a true middle linebacker. Simmons was terrific there for three seasons before they moved him to the weak side, which they say is his more natural position. Certainly, Hardy is back at his natural spot after playing in the middle last season.
“Last year, I brought a lot of football experience as a guy who had been in the league a long time and (Webster) brings some of that same stuff,” Hardy said. “But he also gives you a guy who has played that position, where that spot is a little more natural to him.”
Hardy is enjoying life without having to call all the signals, but he can help Webster do it. Webster feels like it is a good fit so far between him and Simmons. He hasn’t worn a “C,” on his jersey, but he hasn’t backed down, either, from establishing himself as a leader.
“With their experience in the league, and me being on some winning squads and going to the big dance, I think we’ll help each other out,” Webster said. “Talking, communication, executing. I’m not trying to show them. I’m just being me. But I can say from high school, I’ve been emotional and a lot of players around stepped their game up. Just showing that it means a lot.”
Webster doesn’t like that “whatever attitude.” He learned from Brooks that you can always learn at least one thing new from every voluntary or mandatory or training camp you attend.
“One camp you can just look at yourself,” Webster said. “Then the next one you look at the whole defense, and then the next one you study the offense and what plays they’re running and where the quarterback’s eyes go.”
Brooks and maybe even Ray Lewis would approve of Webster’s first month of a Bengal. He just came to work.
Whenever TB was on TV, I would always think that D. Brooks had just made some sweet tackle, or caught a guy from behind or just make a sick play, and on many occassions it was actually Webster. I couldnt tell them apart other than their #'s. He was all over the field all the time, gotta like that
Our defense is without a doubt faster than last years model. I'd still like a run stuffing DT to help Webster out. Ray Lewis had mammoths playing in front of him. I definitely think that within the next two to three years Marvin is going to have the D loaded. I still can't believe that nobody gave him a head coaching position before now.
I may be a Bengals fan (since '81), but I know my Football.
Oh ya now your seeing alot of Bengals fans come and show their real colors They say that Nate Webster is a mini me of Ray Lewis on his agressiveness and ability to play the linebacker position and I was very happy when he came to us. He should be a stopper on any defense IMO
The tandem of Chad Johnson and Rudi Johnson, plus a new defense,Marvin Lewis,Palmer=Dynasty
FeArMeNtL wrote:Oh ya now your seeing alot of Bengals fans come and show their real colors They say that Nate Webster is a mini me of Ray Lewis on his agressiveness and ability to play the linebacker position and I was very happy when he came to us. He should be a stopper on any defense IMO