BEREA, Ohio — Josh Cribbs dressed but barely played Friday in the Cleveland Browns' preseason opener in Detroit.
It was no big deal to him. Cribbs said the coaching staff had already told him he would not play much, and he was fine with that.
“I know they want to see the young guys,” Cribbs said Tuesday. “I’ve been around enough to know how it works. I know what they want to see, what they
expect out of me.”
The question is what Cribbs expects of himself, and what fans should expect from him.
Because while he is reliable and predictable for his effort on the field, off he remains as mercurial as ever.
At one time or another this preseason Cribbs has said he does not plan to play offense and then said he does. On Tuesday, he had moved up the receiver
depth chart -- or appeared to move up -- because Mohamed Massaquoi
(concussion) and Travis Benjamin
(unknown) were not practicing. Combine that with Josh Gordon
’s struggles and Cribbs might find himself on the field on offense more than initially expected.
“I’m going to take advantage of all the opportunities I get,” Cribbs said. “And I’m going to get catches. Because of injury last year, I was the
second-leading receiver. So . . . it’s nothing to me.”
Cribbs will return kicks, though Benjamin could push him. Cribbs also will cover kicks. At both returning and covering, he’s one of the best in the league.
But his offensive role could be affected by any number of things.
Among them: How Gordon grows into the pro game, if he does, and how much of a spark the offense needs. Cribbs as a change of pace is also among the best in
As a returner, there have been few better.
He admits now that he was overweight last season — at one point in the lockout he was up to 245 pounds — and this year reported lighter (215) at the urging
of coach Pat Shurmur.
“It was important to cap it off and finish strong,” Cribbs said. “I expect a lot more TDs this year. Lost a lot of weight, got a little faster, pick my
game up a lot, both offense and special teams.”
There’s that reference again . . . offense and special teams.
“This is preseason,” he said. “A lot of things change once the final roster is out. Only (46) can be dressed on game day, and only a certain amount of
receivers can be dressed on game day. I hope to be one of them. I know that when given the opportunity, (I can) make plays, both offensively and special
teams, so I don’t have a doubt in my mind that I’m going to get in on the offense.”
Cribbs has had a year to adjust to the kickoff being moved five yards and to kicks being sent deep into the end zone. He said he has to “make it a weapon”
by having his blocking line move deeper.
“They’re still setting as though the ball is being kicked from the regular spot,” he said.
But he said he will continue to bring the ball out from eight or nine yards deep in the end zone.
“The league average (per team) for being stopped inside the 20 was 12, something like that,” Cribbs said. “We had seven inside the 20. I’m going to bring
it out every chance I get.”
One might think the Browns' lack of scoring last season would mean fewer returns, but the Browns ranked eighth in the league with 48 returns. They got past
the 20 two-thirds of the time.
Cribbs enters this season on the last year of his contract. In the past, he has voiced his displeasure when his deal was not re-done, and last season, he
voiced his displeasure at his limited role in the offense while the team was losing. He even asked to be put on more special teams.
This season his role could diminish, or if things go the way he seems to expect when the games count it could increase.
Either way, he promised one thing: He would more quiet about his role.
“I just want to win,” Cribbs said. “If guys are capable in front of me and they get the job done, I’m all for it. You won’t hear me unless we’re not
winning off the break and I know I can help us win. As long as we’re winning, I’m going to sit there and score 100 TDs on returns and make 100 tackles. The
only time you’ll hear me is if we’re not winning and I can give us a chance to win. That’s the only time you’ll hear my voice.”
Pat McManamon appears courtesy of FoxSportsOhio.