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Archive for the category “Josh Cribbs”

If Sunday is the last home game for Josh Cribbs, it’s been a blast

cribbstbWe knew that Sunday’s game against Washington was the last home game on the schedule for the Cleveland Browns, but we hadn’t thought about how it could also be the last home game for Josh Cribbs in Orange and Brown until reading this post at WFNY.

It seems likely that Cribbs will be playing elsewhere next season. He will be 30 by the time the 2013 NFL season begins and, after eight years in the league, he will be looking for what will certainly be the final “big money” contract of his playing career. It seems just as likely that CEO Joe Banner will not be willing to be the highest bidder for Cribbs, especially as Banner has no emotional connection to the player.

And that’s too bad. While we don’t expect Banner to break the bank for Cribbs, it will be hard to watch if Cribbs is wearing a different uniform next season.

Read more…

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Why are Browns fans upset with Josh Cribbs?

Judging by our timeline on Twitter Friday afternoon we are probably in the minority on this subject, but here goes:

Is Josh Cribbs’ desire to have a bigger role in the Cleveland Browns offense really a bad thing?

The Browns have a player who wants to be involved in the offense, who thinks he can help out on the field and … that’s supposed to be a bad thing? We’ve seen so many players come through town and dog it in the past 13 years – Gerard Warren, Quincy Morgan, Baryon Edwards and William Green quickly come to mind – that to hear a player speak up and want to take on more responsibility is refreshing.

So should Cribbs have a greater role in the offense over the final seven games of the season?

We answer that at The Cleveland Fan.

(Photo by ClevelandBrowns.com)

K2 a true Only in Cleveland story

We weren’t that surprised when we heard the news that Tampa Bay traded former Cleveland Browns tight end Kellen Winslow to Seattle

After all, the Bucs have a new coach and when you can get someone like Greg Schiano, who took Rutgers to the middle of the all-powerful Big East, well you just have to let him call the shots.

“(Schiano) said he was kind of upset that I wasn’t there working with the team in the offseason and for the first week of OTAs,” Winslow told the hosts of the The Opening Drive on Sirius NFL Radio.

“But look, I’ve been there the last three years and I’ve had a successful career so far. You don’t just get rid of one of your best players like that. I have nothing bad to say about Coach Schiano. It was just a disagreement on why I’m not there yet.”

Tampa likely shares the same concern the Browns did when they traded Winslow following the 2008 season – while he is talented and only 28, Winslow has the knee of an 80-year-old, and the thought of paying him base salaries of $3.3 million, $4.5 million, and $5.5 million over the next three years is more of a risk than Tampa probably wants to take.

Winslow is one of those Only in Cleveland stories that fans have come to know all too well over the years. Hugely talented when he was drafted out of Miami in the first round of the 2004 draft, Winslow broke his leg two games into his rookie season (during the Jeff Garcia 0.0 game, talk about an OIC moment) and missed the rest of the year.

Read more…

Browns lose themselves deep in Texas

Every time we think the Browns can’t sink any lower, they drain a little more water out of the pool.

Case in point: Sunday’s 30-12 loss to the Houston Texans.

The Browns went in to the game as 11 point underdogs and certainly played that way.

The Browns totaled 10 first downs and 172 yards of offense.

Houston’s Arian Foster rushed for 124 yards, Ben Tate ran for 115 and both scored touchdowns.

Cleveland’s Chris Ogbonnaya finished with 28 yards rushing, Thomas Clayton had 10; the Browns finished with just 44 yards on the ground.

The Browns have now gone eight consecutive games without scoring a touchdown in the first or third quarter.

“They came from the first snap to the last and it’s frustrating,” quarterback Colt McCoy said in published reports. “They were able to create a lot of pressure up front. At times, it was hard to overcome.”

The Texans got the ball to open the game and went 82 yards in nine plays for a touchdown. Ogbonnaya fumbled on the Browns first offensive play, the Texans scored six plays later and the game was essentially over.

“We spend the whole week working on the run game, play-action, things that you’re going to do,” McCoy said, “and then both times you have to completely abandon that and get into something else because you’re down two touchdowns. We’re not good enough to overcome that.”

The Browns are broken – especially on offense – right now and there seems little anyone can do to fix the problem.

The team can’t do anything on offense – it can run, it can throw long, it can’t throw short, it can’t protect the quarterback (it will be a miracle in McCoy makes it 16 games in one piece).

“I don’t think we did very good overall protecting the quarterback,” tackle Joe Thomas said in the understatement of the season. “We’ve got to play better if we want to win in the future. It wasn’t anything we didn’t expect. They open the playbook up when you’re down, 14-0, right away. There’s nothing that they can’t do. You can’t spot them 14. That’s just the bottom line.”

Josh Cribbs continue to be the lone bright spot on offense – and the one player that really seems to bring it every week. Cribbs, playing in his 100th career game, had a 64-yard kickoff return, five receptions and a touchdown. He’s already set career bests with 22 catches for 298 yards. He also had three tackles on special teams.

Everyone else? Not much.

“I don’t want to say we’re at a crossroads, but this is a point where you can go one of two ways — pack it in and fold or keep trying to get better,” linebacker Scott Fujita said in published reports. “And defensively we can’t afford to take a step back.”

We knew coming into the season that things could get rough. With only two drafts under his belt and a reduced off-season, there has only been so much that general manager Tom Heckert could do to clean up the mess left for him by Phil Savage and Eric Mangini. There are only four players left on the team from Savage’s last draft in 2008 and Mangini’s one-and-only draft in 2009.

Maybe if they didn’t have so many holes to fill across the team Heckert would have realized what a bad idea it was to go into the season relying on Tony Pashos at right tackle, who’s been a turnstile and is now injured again.

Unfortunately there is nothing the Browns can do about those problems now. They have to face the last half of the season with the team they have, not they one we wish for.

And the team is left to come home, lick its wounds, and get ready for the 1-7 Rams next weekend at home. The Rams have somehow managed to score fewer points than the Browns this season, so we should all be in for some kind of offensive treat next weekend.

For now, we’ll leave it to Cribbs to sum up the loss to the Texans.

“They beat us up,” he said in published reports. “They beat us up front, all across the board. Give them credit, they were whooping us up front. They whipped us all over.”

That they did.

(Photo by The Associated Press)

Browns lock up their cornerstone

Josh Cribbs, Peyton Hillis and Joe Haden may be the heart of the Browns, but Joe Thomas is clearly the hardworking soul of the team.

So it was no surprise that the team and the Pro Bowl left tackle have agreed to a seven-year contract extension worth $84 million, including $44 million guaranteed.

And you don’t have to read too hard between the lines to realize that the changes that team president Mike Holmgren and general manager Tom Heckert have made since arriving in town played a big role in Thomas staying with the team.

“We’re really building something special with Tom Heckert and Mike Holmgren and I think this program is headed in the right direction,” Thomas told The Plain Dealer. “It was really important for me to make this a real long-term deal so that I can finish my career here.

“I’ve been so impressed with coach (Pat) Shurmur and the staff that he brought in and the way he teaches the players. Tom Heckert’s been drafting guys I really want to be around and I want to be part of this really great thing that’s going on now. The way the team has picked up the new offense, plenty of mistakes have been made, but you can just see the potential there. It’s so exciting to be part of it.”

Read more…

Browns feeling lockout’s pinch?

How much is the ongoing NFL lockout impacting the Browns?

Well, it’s certainly not helping.

Josh Cribbs told ESPN’s First Take the Browns are hurting because they can’t work with the coaches to install the new offensive and defensive systems.

“It does hurt us because at a time when there’s not a lockout, teams who have new coaches are allowed a certain amount of time to prepare,” Cribbs said. “And because of this lockout, we’re not.”

If this was a normal year, the Browns would be allowed to hold an extra minicamp because they have a new coach in Pat Shurmur.

Now? They have to be content with Camp Colt.

“Colt has been rounding up the troops and planning short minicamps to get the playbook down pat as much as we can, to get the plays down pat,” Cribbs said. “We’re really limited on the amount of things we can do because of the amount of information that we have.

“But at the same time, the minicamps that we’re having are beneficial. We’re getting our throwing down pat and the timing with the quarterback. It’s really beneficial … but we are set back a little bit because of the lockout.”

Speaking of McCoy, can he be the quarterback that helps the Browns close the gap on Pittsburgh and Baltimore?

“It’s horrible; there’s nothing good about [inexperienced quarterbacks] facing the Ravens and Steelers,” said Matt Williamson of Scouts Inc. “They’re not carbon copies of each other, but their philosophy is pretty similar. They’re going to take away your running game, and you’re not going to outwork them in the trenches or move them. Then you’re one-dimensional, and then you’re in trouble.

“I really worry about the guy’s arm strength. I just can’t get around that. When the weather gets bad, he’s not going to be able to complete passes in Cleveland. I think he’s a real good fit in the West Coast offense. I think he has some moxie to him and I like the way he plays. But when it’s December and the Steelers and Ravens are in town, you better be able to complete a deep out.”

It’s getting a little old hearing about McCoy’s alleged lack of arm strength. You know who else had “average arm strength”? Brian Sipe. It’s not always how hard you throw the ball, but when and where you throw it that counts.

“It takes a while, but you make the cold and the wind your asset,” Sipe said in Terry Pluto’s book, Things I’ve Learned from Watching the Browns. “You learn to play in it by practicing in it. Then, when the other teams come to the lakefront, they aren’t ready for it.

“You should embrace the cold. It helps you as a quarterback because it slows the game down. You can see things better. Playing in that weather is part of what made us a tough team mentally.”

McCoy has the skills needed for a West Coast offense, which the Browns are now planning to run. He’ll be fine.

***

In the world of a different kind of football, the Premier League’s 20 clubs collectively lost close to half a billion pounds last year despite making record income, a Guardian analysis of their most recent accounts has revealed.

In the 2009-10 financial year, the clubs currently in the Premier League made total revenues of £2.1 billion (that’s billion with a b), principally from their billion-pound TV deals and the world’s most expensive tickets. Yet 16 of the 20 clubs made losses, totalling a record £484 million, and the same number relied on funding from their wealthy owners.

Aston Villa lost £38 million as the club’s owner, Randy Lerner, struggles to compete with clubs whose commercial income and potential is much greater than Villa’s.

According to the report, “these are sobering figures … signalling why reality bit for Randy Lerner’s ‘good American’ takeover at Villa Park. Lerner has problems to address despite £206 million invested. Their turnover of £91 million at the 42,582-capacity Villa Park is the Premier League’s seventh highest, but is so far behind Chelsea, Manchester United and Arsenal they risk becoming a seller of players to the top clubs.”

So in addition to the NFL lockout, Lerner has that on his plate to worry about.

***

Lost in all the hoopla about Jake Peavy’s performance against the Tribe on Wednesday night was that Justin Masterson was just as good.

Even though he took the loss, Masterson threw a five-hitter, striking out eight and walking two in his first complete game of the season.

Masterson went 5-0 with a 2.18 ERA in his first five starts of the season. In his last four starts, he’s 0-2 with a 2.78 ERA. In three of those games, he’s allowed two or fewer earned runs.

He keeps that up and we’re sure everything will be just fine.

***

Kyrie Irving plans to only have medical tests at the NBA combine, and will skip the on-court tests and drills.

“I’m just going doing medical here,” said Irving, the presumed No. 1 pick. “There’s no particular reason. I’m still working out around here (privately) but I’m not doing anything at the combine.”

No need to wear yourself out kid. Just focus on getting ready for Byron Scott’s training camp this fall.

***

Finally, check out the latest from Fresh Brewed Tees.

Kickoff change much ado about nothing?

Josh Cribbs was all over the news on Tuesday after the NFL announced it was moving the kickoff spot from the 30-yard-line back to the 35-yard-line.

Cribbs is understandably upset about this as, against some teams, the extra five yards will mean additional touchbacks and fewer opportunities for Cribbs to return the ball, which he does better than anyone else in the NFL – he’s the career leader in kickoff returns for touchdowns with eight.

”I just disagree with the rule changes because it affects me tremendously and other guys tremendously,” Cribbs told The Beacon Journal. ”I count on [Chicago Bears return man] Devin Hester breaking records and everything, so I can chase him. They count on me breaking records, so they can chase me and vice versa. But without the opportunity, it takes us out of the game sometimes.”

But will it really make a difference?

Last year teams kicked away from Cribbs, usually by short kicking, to keep the ball out of his hands. There is little reason to think that strategy was going to change, no matter where they are kicking off from.

In addition, in 2010 the average kickoff went to the 6-yard-line; now with the extra five yards the ball will go to the 1-yard-line, which means returners will still have an opportunity to make a play.

When the NFL last kicked off from the 35-yard-line, in 1993, there were 57 returns of more than 40 yards and four returns for touchdowns.

In 2010, there were 113 returns of more than 40 yards and 23 kicks returned for touchdowns.

But we have to remember that in 1993 teams were not keeping players like Cribbs, Hester and Leon Washington on the roster to specifically return kicks, and that impacts the return numbers as much as the 5-yard difference.

Baltimore Ravens kicker Billy Cundiff is cited as reason No. 1 why the rule change is bad. Cundiff had an NFL-record 40 touchbacks last season; it’s not like that number was going to go down anyway. Plus, he’s the exception rather than the rule here.

Teams will adjust to this rule just like they do with everything else.

“It’s going to take a lot of strategy for the coaches to come up with a plan for how to take advantage of the opportunities you do have,” Washington said on NFL.com. “I think, as a returner, you have to really study the game, study the kickers and try to approach the game from that angle. … Special-teams coaches have to really, really prepare themselves and really game-plan around how to take advantage of when you do have opportunities.”

***

While we fully expect the Browns to go defense with their first pick in next month’s NFL Draft, we were still a little bit surprised to hear that Browns GM Tom Heckert and coach Pat Shurmur didn’t attend the pro day workout of Georgia wide receiver A.J. Green.

That is until we heard what went on during the day.

By NFL rule, only an NFL-draft eligible quarterback from the player’s school can throw passes during the receiver’s pro day. Since the Bulldogs don’t have anyone fitting that criteria, they are allowed to bring someone in as long as they played at the college level withing the state or live within a 40-mile radius of the school.

But the only quarterback Georgia could find is Justin Roper, who played in college at Montana but now lives 46 miles away from the Georgia campus.

Got all that so far?

So the rules required the university to send all NFL officials indoors for Green’s individual drill workout. But the representatives from the NFL teams were allowed to watch the workouts on a monitor.

But not in person.

We don’t know, either.

***

From Who Ate All the Pies comes word that the Mechanical and Industrial Engineering department at Qatar University is developing an ‘artificial cloud’ that could be used to temper the desert country’s blistering heat during the 2022 World Cup.

According to the report, the cloud is positioned by remote control, made of 100 percent light carbonic materials, filled with helium, fuelled by four solar-powered engines and it’s primary function will be to hover above the various stadiums in order to ‘filter both direct and indirect UV rays, as well as controlling temperatures at pitch level’ – all at a cost of around $500,000.

I think the Indians need to get working one of these for Progressive Field.

Final Thoughts on the Browns-Steelers

A day after the Browns fell to 1-5 on the season, all the talk is about the illegal – but unpenalized – hits James Harrison put on Josh Cribbs and Mohamed Massaquoi.

Before the season, an article on NFL.com article stated that “the reworded rules prohibit a player from launching himself off the ground and using his helmet to strike a player in a defenseless posture in the head or neck. The old rule only applied to receivers getting hit, but now it will apply to everyone.”

But on Monday, an NFL spokesman said the hit on Cribbs was legal because he was a runner on the play.

Apparently Cribbs is not in the class of players who fall into the category of “everyone.”

Thankfully the league is at least “reviewing” the hit on Massaquoi.

“The one against Mohamed was illegal,” Browns tight end Ben Watson told The Plain Dealer. “I can’t judge his character, I can judge his conduct. It was an illegal hit. He led with his head, he hit Mo right in the head, he dove at his head. It was an illegal play. Whether he meant to hurt him or not, I can’t comment on that. It was illegal and the league should take care of him with the max, whatever it is. If it’s a suspension, if it’s a fine, then I hope the league does whatever they can do.”

I don’t know; it seems as if the NFL pretty much lets the Steelers get away with whatever they want because they play “tough football.” But if the league is serious about head injuries, it’s hard to believe they can turn a blind eye to this.

“There’s strong testimonial for looking readily at evaluating discipline, especially in the areas of egregious and elevated dangerous hits,” Ray Anderson, the NFL’s vice president of football operations, told the Associated Press. “Going forward there are certain hits that occurred that will be more susceptible to suspension. There are some that could bring suspensions for what are flagrant and egregious situations.”

The tide is certainly turning against hits like the ones Harrison delivered. Even Sports Illustrated’s Peter King, long an NFL apologist, thinks enough is enough. In his Monday Morning Quarterback column King wrote:

“So many thoughts. One: It’s time to start ejecting and suspending players for flagrant hits, which I thought the (Brandon) Meriweather one was, and perhaps also the shot of Harrison on Massaquoi. Two: the league had better train its officials better considering there was no penalty on the Harrison hit on Massaquoi. The league had as a point of emphasis to officials this year that launching into a defenseless receiver would be a penalty and subject to discipline. So emphasize it.”

If Roger Goodell has lost Peter King, that could be like Lyndon Johnson losing Walter Cronkite on the Vietnam War – we may see some real action against Harrison.

***

Some other final thoughts:

  • Congrats to Phil Dawson for passing Lou Groza to become the Browns all-time leader in field goals. Hard to believe Dawson has been with the team since 1999; dude should definitely write a book.
  • When did Eric Wright turn into Brandon McDonald?
  • Chansi Stuckey had another nice day with four more catches; he’s turning into a reliable target from the slot position.
  • Brian Robiskie: 15 career games, 12 career catches.
  • Jerome Harrison didn’t show up in the box score for the Eagles on Sunday. Mike Bell rushing twice for three yards for the Browns.

***

See what others are saying:

Play McCoy the Rest of the Way: Waiting for Next Year

Harrison’s Postgame Comments show ambivalence, ignorance
: Waiting for Next Year

McCoy avoids meltdown
: Cleveland Frowns

NFL has yet to prove any real sympathy
: Bill Livingston, Plain Dealer

A Step in the Right Direction

Browns coach Eric Mangini may be on to something here as the team prepares for its first division game of the season, this Sunday in Baltimore.

In his Monday press conference, Mangini said the Browns should have used Josh Cribbs in the Wildcat more against KC:

“I feel like I would have used it more yesterday looking back. That’s something I would have done more of in retrospect. I think that whether they’re catching up or not catching up giving Josh (Cribbs) a few more chances to carry the ball sometimes they have caught up and he changes things.”

On getting Cribbs more opportunities:

“Yes, just to get Josh more touches. I think with him, they may load the box, they may do a lot of different things. He’s got a chance on any play.”

And why haven’t they used the Wildcat very much so far:

“You’re going through the course of the game and there’s a lot of things that, when you have a chance to sit in your offense and analyze, you think of. There are some decisions that you’d like to have back, but you don’t get to it at that point. I think every coach in the league goes through that process on Monday morning, win or lose. ‘I wish we had done this, I wish we had done more of that.’ When you have the benefit of time and reflection and you’ve seen how the game has unfolded, you always go through that process. Good and bad.”

This is good stuff. The first step to becoming more effective at work is awareness. If you don’t know a problem exists, you can’t fix it. Without feedback, most people believe they are doing just fine. It seems as if the feedback is starting to get through.

***

In a city with more than 10,000 taxi cabs running 24 hours a day, you would think it wouldn’t be that hard to avoid being arrested for drunk driving. The Alumni Office at the University of Michigan must be so proud.

***

A very solid article at the Orange & Brown Report on the early results of the Mike Holmgren era.

The Third-Year Wide Receiver

There’s a growing statistical trend in the NFL that wide receivers have their breakout season in Year 3 because that is when they adjust to the speed of the game and fully understand how to read defenses and run routes.

In recent years, Greg Jennings (2008), Braylon Edwards (2007) and Roddy White (2007) all had statistical leaps in their third season. Carolina’s Steve Smith (2003), Chad Ochocinco (2003) and Terrell Owens (1998) are also solid examples.

“You’re buckling down and learning the playbook and just learning how to play the wide receiver position,” White said in an interview at CBS Sports.com. “When you first get in the league you just use your athletic ability, but everybody is athletic. Once you start studying and use your technique and things like that, then the game becomes a whole lot easier and slows down. That’s when you start making plays.”

If that trend holds true this season, it could be very good news for the Cleveland Browns because Josh Cribbs is entering what we can call his third season as a wide receiver.

Cribbs was involved on the fringes of the Browns offense his first few years, so for this argument we’re going to count 2005-08 as his “first” year. During that time he totaled 16 catches; last year he topped that four-year total by pulling in 20 passes as he continued his maturation as a receiver.

Compare those numbers to the Saints’ Robert Meachem, who in his first two years totaled 12 catches for 289 yards. Last year he pulled in 45 passes for 722 yards and nine touchdowns.

It’s not reasonable to expect Cribbs to put up those kind of numbers, especially since the Browns don’t have a high-powered offense like the Saints. But if Cribbs’ understanding of the position catches up with his physical skills, is it that hard to see him pulling in 30-40 receptions this year? Especially with the improvement at the quarterback position?

The coaching staff has noticed, with head coach Eric Mangini saying in published reports that “the thing about Josh that we can’t look past is any time he gets the ball, regardless of what distance he gets it at, he is a vertical threat because it’s Josh with the ball in his hands in space. It just goes from a catch to a kick return.”

Mangini also credited Cribbs with improving his blocking and route running, which supports the trend of third-year receivers having a breakout season.

Cribbs has eight receptions in the past two preseason games, including a major-league catch along the sideline against Detroit. If he can become a reliable option as the team’s No. 3 receiver, that’s just another viable piece of the puzzle for an improving offense.

Opposing teams already have to fear Cribbs in the return game. Just think what it will mean for the offense if they have to start worrying about him in the passing game as well.

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