This team never stops amazing me. Just not too much in the good way. Why is it that it takes a huge play from someone that should have been on the field more to begin with for the coaches to finally say, “Hey, this guy may actually be pretty good!”
In the case of Jerome Harrison, I have a feeling that even his 11-plus yards per touch will still find him on the bench in key situations. But in the case of Josh Cribbs, it only took 12 weeks for some play-callers to wake up and smell the coffee.
Much to the chagrin of the Harrison-loving fans, Cribbs could be seeing some extended time as the third down back. His big drawback through his “career” as a wide receiver has been route-running. We know he’s quick. We know he can catch the ball in traffic. But the ability to make a play to a ball mid-route has not been the easiest transition for the return man.
Why did Cribbs want to be a receiver instead of a back to begin with?
“I felt more comfortable with receiver because I had thrown a lot to them,” he said. “I didn’t think about running because the Browns had a lot of core running backs here, and receiver was the next-best thing.”
Touché, Josh. Couple that with the fact that our receiving corps is about as thin as it comes, and the former Golden Flash has a point. But when it comes to being a running back, it appears that Cribbs has the support of one of this season’s leading voices.
“Tall backs can look over the defense and see where they’re going,” [Jamal’ Lewis said. “At the same time, when they do get ready to make contact, they’re not high, they’re low.”
Other backs with upright running styles have had their bumps and bruises. But the only difference is the size as Marion Barber, Stephen Jackson and Brandon Jacobs all have a few pounds on Cribbs. But these three guys also require 20 touches per game, when Cribbs would only be used in certain situations.
He’s a guy that has to be accounted for every time he’s on the field. Watch the opposing defenses move around when they see that number 16 in the huddle. When he lines up at quarterback, you have five guys on the other side pointing at him to let teammates know what’s about to happen. But as seen against Buffalo, even when they know what’s about to happen – it is still very difficult to stop.
The down side to this, especially if the team plans on using it next season? The contract. Cribbs mentioned wanting a new deal this past off season, one year after signing a six-year, $6 million; a move that we even gave him some grief for, mostly based on principle. But as seen this year, this kid comes to play every week. There’s even been times when we’ve mentioned putting him in the secondary just so we would stop getting burnt.
If we’re going to implement Cribbs more and more on offense, and still ask him to be a Pro Bowl return man on special teams, he’ll have to be compensated for that. And it is no secret that we have other players like Sean Jones and possibly Kellen Winslow that will be new deal door come this summer.
For now, let’s see what Cribbs can do against Houston this week. If Brady’s finger is dinged up, we may be looking at even more short passes – something Cribbs can definitely extend if given the proper spacing.