On Friday, Cribbs’ return to the field after being held out of contact portions through the duration of this past week, last year’s team captain was featured in several sets as a receiver, but also was the quarterback on a pass to Brian Robiske down the right sideline. Taking a pitch from quarterback Colt McCoy, Cribbs turned into what could be Cleveland’s version of Antwaan Randle El circa 2009.
“[Coach Pat Shurmer] is not a big fan of the Wildcat, but he is a big fan of giving me the football,” said Cribbs following the practice session. “Every way he can, out of the pocket – I don’t know if you saw me at quarterback when Colt [McCoy] pitched the ball to me – he is going to do everything he can to put the ball in the hands of guys that can make plays.”
Back in March, WFNY penned a piece which called for the death of the Wildcat (or Cyclone) package that featured Cribbs as the lead rusher. The basis of said piece was for the Browns to build an actual offense, one spearheaded by a pass-happy Pat Shurmur, that does not have to rely on gimmick plays. With the team now looking to develop rookie quarterback Colt McCoy within a West Coast system, falling back on plays that typically rely on blown defensive assignments is not the way to go through a 16-game season.
Naturally, Cribbs will also be featured in the return game which the receiver says will result in “deeper sets” due to the new kickoff rules that will be implemented. The responsibility to draw up successful schemes for Cribbs and company will exist in the hands of special teams coach Chris Tabor of Chicago Bears and Devin Hester fame. While many feel that highly-skilled return men will be moot, Cribbs says that he’s considering this to merely be “another hurdle” for him to get over en route to success.
One other hurdle that Cribbs will have to overcome is the injury bug that has plagued him for most of the last 12 months. Eliminating the Wildcat package will not only relieve the Browns offense of telegraphed plays leading to third-and-longs, but it should also subsequently lead to less pounding on the receivers 215-pound frame. Despite the ground he has made in the receiving ranks, Cribbs’ bread and butter contnues to be in the return game. Keeping him healthy will provide Pat Shurmur’s offense considerably better field position throughout the year, something that will be even more integral as the season wears on.
“It’s good to have him back out there,” said Shurmur. “I think it [will be] important that we keep him in a position where he can be explosive as a returner as well.”
Photo: Josh Kuntz/Plain Dealer