Cleveland Browns: Why Josh Cribbs Should Be a 3rd-Down Running Back in 2011

Brian MurtaughAnalyst IJuly 19, 2011

CLEVELAND - OCTOBER 03:  Wide receiver Joshua Cribbs #16 of the Cleveland Browns is hit by safety Chinedum Ndukwe #41 of the Cincinnati Bengals at Cleveland Browns Stadium on October 3, 2010 in Cleveland, Ohio.  (Photo by Matt Sullivan/Getty Images)
Matt Sullivan/Getty Images

Joshua Cribbs has been one of the most electrifying players in the entire NFL since he first came to the Cleveland Browns in 2005. Cribbs has set records in the kick return game, been a solid wide receiver and even spent time as a wildcat quarterback in his six seasons with the Browns. Even though all of those duties have made him a better player, Cribbs has yet to find a way to be a consistent part of the growing offense.

The Browns have tried various routes to get Cribbs more involved in the offense over the last two seasons. One of the most elusive open-field players in the AFC, Cribbs' talents seemed wasted as a kick return specialist and an expensive contract extension warranted an even bigger result in every area of his game.

In 2011 Cleveland has the opportunity to not only help Cribbs take his game to another level, but add a dynamic to the offense that has not been seen by opposing defenses.

The Browns have actively been seeking a change-of-pace runner that can compliment Peyton Hillis in the backfield and be an insurance policy in case of a setback in Montario Hardesty's recovery. Cribbs is arguably the most explosive player on Cleveland's active roster and has great ability to make defenders miss. These attributes, along with his leadership ability, would make Cribbs a perfect compliment to the slower, stronger Hillis.

The best thing about this transformation for the Browns is that Cribbs is under contract until the end of the 2013 season. That means that Cleveland will have time to work Cribbs into his new role and also keep cap room free for other acquisitions along the defensive side of the ball.

Cribbs has great horizontal movement which Cleveland usually lacks when Hillis is in the backfield. Hillis has shown over his short time with Cleveland that he would rather run defenders over than run to the open field. That type of additional dynamic can help the Browns spread opposing defenses and also keep Hillis fresh for short yard situations.

The biggest thing that could make the Browns think twice about this move would be Cribbs' tendency to fumble the football. Cribbs has had 13 fumbles over the past two seasons but has only lost two to opposing defenses. Hillis had eight fumbles in 2010-11 while recovering only three loose balls.

Cleveland's offensive plans will likely be hidden until the preseason comes to a close this fall. However, Browns fans can finally rest assured that their team has quality options at nearly every position on the field and have the potential to become a much better football team.

Brian Murtaugh is a Cleveland Browns Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report and also the beat writer for Browns Central.