Cleveland Browns: Josh Cribbs Trying to Find a Role on New-Look Offense

Brian MurtaughAnalyst ISeptember 4, 2012

GLENDALE, AZ - DECEMBER 18:  Wide receiver Josh Cribbs #16 of the Cleveland Browns rushes the football during the NFL game against the Arizona Cardinals at the University of Phoenix Stadium on December 18, 2011 in Glendale, Arizona. The Cardinals defeated the Browns 20-17 in overtime.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Christian Petersen/Getty Images

The Cleveland Browns have had their fair share of failures as they look to build a wide receiver group that has become one of the NFL’s most inept units over the last five seasons.

The Browns have gone through several draft classes, free agent acquisitions and practice squad journeymen and have not found a mix that can be consistently productive, let alone stable.

Last season, Josh Cribbs was Cleveland’s second-leading receiver behind Greg Little and looked as if he was growing into an offensive threat that the Browns could use in future seasons.

However, with the additions of players like Josh Gordon and Travis Benjamin, Cribbs’ role on the Browns offense has been significantly reduced and could result in a complete termination of playing time for him at the wideout spot this season.

Head coach Pat Shurmur has said that he values Cribbs as a special teams player and wants him to focus on his strengths as the Browns move forward. Cribbs is without a doubt a return specialist, but was working on becoming a consistent receiving option over the last three seasons.

It is strange for a franchise to push a proven part of their offensive system to the back burner before another player has earned their spot on the starting offense. Cribbs has been a reliable receiving option when given the opportunity, and clearly had his best season in 2011 after working into a backup role behind Greg Little and Mohammed Massaquoi.

Not to mention the fact that Cribbs has been a model teammate on the Browns' roster since he first entered the league eight seasons ago. He has become a fan favorite in Cleveland because of his hard play and willingness to help the team in whatever manner he can.

Terry Pluto of the Cleveland Plain Dealer summed it up perfectly in his weekly notebook edition he publishes after each Browns game.

Pluto wrote "Cribbs entered the game in the second quarter of the most meaningless game of the meaningless preseason -- at least for a player heading into his eighth season. Cribbs immediately caught two passes, one for 22 yards and the other for 12 yards. Cribbs played hard like he always does, fearless going into traffic to make those catches."

That type of attitude is something that the Cleveland faithful love to get behind and many fans would agree that Cribbs has done nothing but give 100 percent every time he has been on the field.

Cribbs does not seem concerned with his new role on the Browns' offense and put up some decent numbers during his limited opportunities during the preseason. Cribbs' five catches for 60 yards was fifth on the Browns during the four-game stretch and trailed only Gordon and Jordan Norwood on the active roster.

It will be interesting to see how the Browns work Cribbs into a significant role with so many players fighting for the opportunity to secure a roster spot in the receiving corps. It is clear that Cleveland needs players to step up on the offensive side of the ball and Cribbs should be waiting when the team needs him later this season.