Cribbs Continues Improvement at WR

Cribbs Continues Improvement at WR

Emergence gives Jake Delhomme increased options in the passing game. Plus, player notes and catching up with Gary Baxter....

With the way Josh Cribbs has improved dramatically as a pass receiver, there is no doubt offensive coordinator Brian Daboll will incorporate the Browns' special teams star into the offense when Jake Delhomme is at quarterback.

Cribbs worked with Seneca Wallace early in training camp. He started spending time with the first-team offense before the second preseason game while Mohamed Massaquoi mended from a hamstring injury. Cribbs continued getting reps with the first unit when Massaquoi improved. He could be an integral part of the red-zone offense this year.

"Josh is getting better as a receiver and I thought he did good things as a receiver last year," coach Eric Mangini said. "I think he's continuing to improve in that role."

Cribbs caught three passes in the third preseason game of the summer, a 35-27 loss to the Lions. One was an acrobatic grab on the left sideline to set up a one-yard touchdown run by Peyton Hillis.

"The more you can do, the more valuable you are to the football team," Cribbs said. "Getting the ball in my hands is one thing. Seeing what I do after that is another."

Cribbs caught a touchdown pass from Wallace in the third quarter of the preseason game against the Rams to put the Browns ahead, 17-13. He ran a go route down the left side, turned at the last second and caught the ball over his outside shoulder with his hands upraised.

Cribbs said he is better as a receiver because he is getting more opportunities than before, but there is more to it than that and the touchdown against the Rams is an example.

"It was nothing awesome," Cribbs said. "It was straight basics. I slowed up and let the cornerback run into me. His momentum pushed me into the ball."

Cribbs could not say whether he would have made a similar catch last season when he caught a career-high 20 passes.

A more experienced Brian Robiskie and Massaquoi, an established tight end in Ben Watson, the steady hands of Delhomme and Wallace plus the ever-improving Cribbs should make the offense more potent than it was last year when they scored 11 passing touchdowns.

Not many receivers are still getting better in their sixth season but Cribbs is.

"One thing I did work on was showing late hands," Cribbs said. "A lot of receivers run with their hands out. If you can wait until the last possible second to put your hands out you can fool the DB The DB is keying on your eyes and your hands.

"I try to make my eyes not get as big when the ball is coming. It's tough to do."

Mangini said Cribbs is underrated as a run blocker. He said a key to the Browns' ground surge at the end of 2009 was the way the receivers blocked, especially Cribbs, tight end Robert Royal and Massaquoi.

"On run plays when I'm blocking, especially man to man, I always make it look like I'm running a go route," Cribbs said. "When no ball is thrown I'm still making the DB react. After crying wolf so many times when the ball is coming they downplay it and I'm able to catch the football."

NOTES, QUOTES

--The Browns have announced a Ring of Honor to be unveiled at the home opener Sept. 19. The inaugural class in the Ring of Honor will be the 16 Browns in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

--Jim Brown, regarded as the greatest player ever to play for the Browns, has indicated he will not attend the Ring of Honor ceremony. His position with the Browns as an executive advisor was eliminated by team president Mike Holmgren.

Holmgren reached out to Brown in a phone call on Aug. 24. On Aug. 26 Brown spoke on a radio station in Syracuse and did not sound appeased.

"I'm a very sensitive person," Brown on The Score 1260. "I do like to be respected. I'm very loyal. I like it to be a two-way street."

--As a team the Browns caught 219 passes last season. That was 105 fewer than the league average of 324 completions.

--Rookie running back Montario Hardesty practiced for the first time on Aug. 26 since suffering a bone bruise in the rookie portion of training camp before training camp began on Aug. 31.

Hardesty was injured making a cut. He said he was not hit. The Browns were cautious in his rehab because of Hardesty's extensive injury history at Tennessee.

--In the wake of the firestorm created when Tony Dungy criticized Jets coach Rex Ryan for swearing on HBO's "Hard Knocks," Browns coach Eric Mangini was asked whether he would hire a coach who uses profanity.

"I don't always have the best language," Mangini said. "I've been around some guys that don't have the best language. I'm not saying that's right or wrong.

"My mom would probably call me, too, if she heard some of the things that were said. I don't know. I don't think I'm in a position to judge anybody else's language."

--Former cornerback Gary Baxter had nothing but bad luck in the two seasons (2005-06) he played for the Browns. His career ended when he jumped to defend a pass in a game against the Broncos. When he jumped he tore both patellar tendons.

Baxter tried valiantly to make a comeback, but failed and eventually retired. He visited training camp recently and wore a broad smile.

"I'm doing great," he said. "My knees feel fine."

Baxter said he and a business partner own 26 Burger King Restaurants in Texas.

--Rookie cornerback Joe Haden has an unusually tattoo on his right biceps -- Mighty Mouse soaring into the sky with a football tucked under one arm and a basketball under the other.

"I have big ears and so does Mighty Mouse," Haden said.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "It's still early. I'll reserve judgment. I'm not good at evaluating, anyway." -- Kicker Phil Dawson on the Browns' preseason.

PLAYER NOTES

--QB Jake Delhomme was 20 of 25 with one touchdown pass while playing in the first half against the Lions. He is 38 of 48 for the preseason.

--OT Tony Pashos is back at right tackle after missing the first two preseason games because of a shoulder injury. He is competing for a starting job with John St. Clair, who was excused last week and for the preseason game for personal reasons.

--LB David Veikune, a second-round pick last year, is on the bubble. He did not help himself in Detroit by drawing a roughing the passer penalty on second-and-seven from the Browns 9.

--RB Jerome Harrison fumbled for the second straight game. He fumbled during a rainstorm in Cleveland. His fumble under the dome in Ford Field was returned for a touchdown.

--Rookie CB Joe Haden is making a strong push for a starting job. In one practice last week he intercepted two passes and knocked down three others. He led the Browns with five tackles vs. the Lions.

--Rookie QB Colt McCoy is experiencing growing pains. During the intrasquad scrimmage on Sept. 7, Coach Eric Mangini criticized him for throwing an interception in the end zone on the final play of the first half, noting Ed Reed returns those Hail Mary passes for a touchdown. In the game against the Lions McCoy chucked the ball beyond the end zone on the final play when his receivers were covered. He should have thrown it up for grabs to give his receivers a chance, Mangini said.

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