Monday, October 17, 2011

Monday leftovers

So Joshua Cribbs wants to refocus his attention more to special teams than wide receivers with the Browns.

“I’m very insignificant on offense,” he told reporters shortly after the Browns dropped a 24-17 decision in Oakland Sunday. “So I need to be out there on special teams.

“I got the ball only twice (on special teams Sunday), so that’s insignificant right there. Snaps, it’s significant. I want to help my team win. You get the ball to your athletes. I feel like I’m an asset on this team on special teams and I want to refocus on what got me into this league.”

Memo to Pat Shurmur: Listen to Cribbs. He makes sense.

Cribbs is not a wide receiver. He’s been in the National Football League long enough (since 2005) to have honed the skills to become a good wideout. He has not. It’s about time Shurmur realizes that.

Meanwhile, Shurmur’s best receiver, Evan Moore, roams the sidelines far too much. The club’s best pass-catching receiver – and for the umpteenth time, he’s not a tight end – is not on the field.

Yes, Moore is not fast. And yes, he is not a great blocker. All he does is run good routes, get open and catch the ball when it’s thrown to him. Can’t ask much more of a receiver than that.

Sunday in Oakland, he was targeted just three times by Colt McCoy and caught two passes ford 15 yards. Yippee. For the season, he has been thrown to 15 times and caught nine passes, two for touchdowns. Cribbs is 14 for 25 and one TD.

Cribbs’ maximum value lies on special teams. He’s correct when he says that’s what got him into the NFL. He knocked down that door and has established himself as one of the most feared return specialists in the league.

Not only that, he’s just as valuable as a gunner on kickoff and punt return teams. But in order to work him into the offense, Shurmur relieved Cribbs of those chores. And the special teams suffered. Time to get him back on and make Moore a fixture as a slot receiver.

Ever the good teammate and team player, Cribbs said the decision is not his to make and will remain silent on the matter. “I ain’t gonna ask,” he said. "I’m a vet. I just do. I’m on (special) teams. Get somebody else out (there as a receiver).”

A plea that no doubt will fall on deaf ears.

* * *

After five games, it has become more than apparent the Browns lack speed and quickness on both sides of the ball. They are a relatively slow team that, time and again, is victimized by faster, quicker teams.

And while the defense played fairly well in Oakland, it was frustrating to watch Cleveland’s front seven get pushed around by the Raiders’ offensive line. It wasn’t unusual to see the line of scrimmage moved several yards downfield by the time Darren McFadden and Michael Bush got the ball.

The Cleveland linebackers are slow with an instinct quotient that falls far short of pre-season expectations. Scott Fujita and Chris Gocong are slow and D’Qwell Jackson, who has the instincts, lacks the aggression one would associate with a middle linebacker.

* * *

In the final minute of the Oakland loss, after recovering an onside kick, the Browns had a second and 3 at the Oakland 42 and the momentum. Three downs to pick up a first down with a measly three yards to go.

And McCoy, for whatever reason, failed to pick up those nine little feet with incompletions to Greg Little, Ben Watson and Mo Massaquoi. Three downs, three yards and nothing to show for it.

Playmakers make those plays. They expect to make those plays. For all the bravado and confidence McCoy displays, he falls far short of undoubtedly his own expectations. That’s the difference between an average quarterback and one who strives to rise above that level.

* * *

Stream of thought: If Sunday’s loss doesn’t prove that football games are won and lost in the trenches, then nothing will. The Browns’ lines were abused a good portion of the afternoon as the line of scrimmage belonged solely to the Raiders. The Cleveland offensive line is a mess with the exception of Joe Thomas and Alex Mack. Tony Pashos at right tackle is slow in pass protection and the young guards are, well, still playing like young guards. . . . If Tom Heckert Jr. doesn’t make the offensive line the top priority in next April’s draft, then it’ll be the same old, same old again next season. He helped the defensive line this season, Next season, the offensive line. . . . Kudos to Mack, who played the entire game less than two weeks after an appendectomy. . . . No excuse for the Browns to get flagged for having 12 men on the field on defense to begin a drive late in the second quarter. . . . Little was targeted 12 times by McCoy. Any doubt who the No. 1 wide receiver is? . . . Two more dropped passes for Montario Hardesty. That makes six in the last two games. A trend or just an aberration? . . . Misdirection football made its return on the Browns’ first touchdown against the Raiders. McCoy’s play fake on first and goal at the Oakland 1 with movement right resulted in a scoring pass to Alex Smith on the opposite side. More of that please. . . . Want speed? Watching Oakland’s Jacoby Ford run that kickoff back all the way for a touchdown gives you some idea of the kind of speed the Browns lack.

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