"The Sunday Five" is a loosely-titled piece where I talk about five NFL- or Browns-related topics related to this past week. In today's edition, we take a look at the possible intrigue of using Joshua Cribbs in the backfield, the receivers leading the league in drops, and what a win today means for the rest of the season.
Cribbs is our best return man, our best receiver, our best special teams coverage man, and perhaps the best person on the team who engages with the community. He has a lot on his plate, but fans have been intrigued for awhile now to see how he would do at the running back position. Cribbs fueled talks that he would be featured there against the Rams when he said the coaches put something special in the playbook for him. Cribbs later retracted that statement, citing that he was just messing around with the media. I'm inclined to believe that Cribbs was trying to put out the flames a little bit on how he might be used this week.
Using Cribbs at running back makes a lot of sense. He does well as a return man using his blockers, and we've seen guys like Percy Harvin take on this type of role fairly well. Even if he doesn't see a lot of carries, adding him to the backfield helps out in other areas. First, it takes ineffective players like Chris Ogbonnaya and Thomas Clayton off the field, with Cribbs taking their spot. Cribbs' vacancy at the receiver position allows for Pat Shurmur to then give more reps to a guy like Jordan Norwood, or even Carlton Mitchell at receiver. Ogbonnaya has struggled at picking up blitzes, and Cribbs seems like a player who would do well at picking up blitzes. He can also release out of the backfield for screen passes, and then everything after that becomes a kick/punt return for him. I'm not holding my breath that this will even come close to happening, but it seems like the right time to do it when we are this low on the depth chart at running back. How much longer can you go struggling on offense without experimenting a little?
In his Sunday morning column, Terry Pluto of the Plain Dealer cites that the Browns lead the NFL in drops with 23 drops (although 6 of those came from that two-game span by Montario Hardesty). All of those drops certainly hurt Colt McCoy's quarterback rating, which is another reason why I refuse to believe he is playing abysmal. McCoy has been dealt a lot of bad hands -- a poor offensive line, no running game, receivers who can't hang onto the ball, etc. Then, whenever he makes a mistake, he sort of takes more of the heat than the other three units. I just hope things get better over the next eight weeks. Maybe a switch will flip and the offensive line will have better chemistry, and guys like Norwood and Mitchell will shine. Again, I won't hold my breath though.
Some people have complained about Tony Pashos in pass protection. I agree that his production has been less than ideal. As Pluto points out though, let's not forget how bad his replacements were when they saw the field:
When Pashos is hurt, Oniel Cousins and Artis Hicks play, and you can see why both were cut by teams at the end of training camp. In 229 pass blocks, Pashos allowed six pressures. Compare that to 17 in 139 blocks for Cousins and Hicks combined.
With how the Browns have played against good teams this year, there is probably very little joy taken in the fact that this team could easily be 5-5 next week. They are facing two pretty winnable football games back-to-back in front of their home crowd. The issue is that even if they get back to .500, the rest of the teams in the division have been very good this year. Baltimore, Pittsburgh, and Cincinnati each have 6 wins, and two weeks from now, each of them will likely have between 7-8 wins. The Browns will have an opportunity to catch each of those teams over the final six weeks of the season, which is a unique opportunity that doesn't happen in the schedule very often. This team hasn't shown they can do anything with that opportunity, but at least the opportunity could be there.