It's rare when 75 percent of a starting secondary changes from one year to the next. It's even more…
According to Webster, who posted 37 solo tackles and broke up five passes last season, that's a concern of the past.
"Everyone's going to see a more confident, comfortable player out there," Webster said. "Everybody together is getting better."
New York's top pick last season (43rd overall in the second round), Webster saw his playing time increase as last year unfolded, culminating in his starting the Wild Card playoff loss to Carolina. But with the departure of both of last year's opening day starting corners – Will Allen and Will Peterson – the door is now officially wide open for the LSU product.
"I thought I did fairly well last year," the 6-0, 202-pound Webster said. "I'm happy I got the experience and just happy I got the year under my belt. I have a great opportunity out there."
Gibril Wilson, the only returning starter in a secondary that's completed by Will Demps, expects to see Webster improve by leaps and bounds in his sophomore season.
"I expect Corey to be a real solid corner in this league," Wilson said. "He has tremendous skills. If he just keeps working hard and listening to what the coaches ask him to do he has the potential to be a Pro Bowl corner. His all-around game is excellent. He has an unbelievable ability to play the ball. He's fast, quick and all the things you need to be to be a good corner."
What he doesn't have is experience. That's where the three-time Pro Bowler Madison comes in.
"A guy like Sam has already made an impact on our younger players," Antonio Pierce said. "That leadership and that charisma about him is big for us."
"I'm just trying to fit in, maybe share a few pointers here and there," the 32-year-old Madison said. "I want to try to bring a little more attitude to the secondary. I really love to get involved with younger guys. I also want to bring a little swagger to everyone."
According to Pierce, Webster already has his swagger down.
"I think Corey is just more confident this year," New York's middle linebacker stated. "It's tough to come in with everyone expecting so much out of you. There aren't many guys that come in at that position and shine right away. He's more comfortable, you can see it in how he walks around and carries himself."
With career numbers of 406 tackles and 31 interceptions, Madison has been carrying himself just fine since being drafted by Miami in the second round in 1997. However, he's heard the rumblings – that he's not the lockdown corner he once was. To that he says bring it on.
"I've heard people saying that I've lost a step," Madison smiled, "put the ball in the air and we'll see."
"It's great to have a veteran guy around that has confidence in his ability to play," DBs coach Peter Giunta said of Madison.
Madison knows another part of his responsibility this season is overseeing Webster's progress.
"I spent a lot of time with Terrell Buckley, and he showed me a lot when I was younger," Madison said. "Hopefully I can rub off on Corey a little bit. He has great ball instincts, ball skills and hands so hopefully I can help him with just a few little things here and there. Hopefully I can bring a little more out of him.
"This should be his breakout year."
Webster has grasped Madison's helping hand and is very appreciative.
"He's just tried to help me any way he can," Webster explained. "He's just trying to make me better. If he sees anything I'm doing wrong he'll help correct me. Having an experienced player like that is great. It's always good to have someone like that you can go to."
Conversely, Madison is well aware that his numbers might soar playing opposite the extremely talented Webster.
"For the first four years (of your career), you see a lot of balls, but after that it kind of tapers off because the other teams don't want you to keep making plays," he said. "But having Corey on the other side – a guy who has the ability to make a lot of big plays – will help me get my production back up."
While the coaches have stopped short of handing Webster the starting job opposite Madison, it's obvious that it's his post to lose.
‘I always practiced like a first-teamer," he said. "I guess I won't know for sure till opening day who the starter is. But by being more familiar with the defense, I can play much more aggressively."
Head coach Tom Coughlin is hopeful Webster can improve from year one to year two.
"To me he was a rookie; he was up and down," Coughlin said. "He had some good, outstanding performances and some that weren't so. He had a little injury and then when he came out of that he didn't seem to be playing as well and then he got a little bit better. So, I think probably the best thing to say was that the talent was there. I think the extent of the season and the injury caused some ups and downs, some inconsistency in his performance. Hopefully that will be behind him."
Defensive coordinator Tim Lewis likes what he's seen from number 23.
"He's fast, explosive, quick, instinctive," Lewis stated. "He has all the tools you look for when we rank defensive backs. He has all of those. We're going to give him an opportunity to show them."
When asked if Webster was ready to handle a starting spot, Lewis answered simply: "He better be."
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