Out of Cleveland the place where he made his mark as one of the most explosive kick and punt return specialists in football, Josh Cribbs signed with Oakland in the offseason with the hopes of proving those around the league whispering that he lost his burst wrong.
With the Browns and other teams around the league balking at signing Cribbs due to issues with his knee with New York Jets GM John Idzik going as far as telling the local New York media that Cribbs’ knee wasn’t ready just two days prior to Reggie McKenzie signing him, it was clear that teams had legitimate worries about the veteran’s nine years of mileage. After two preseason games, it looks that the teams that passed on him were right.
On Friday at the SuperDome, Cribbs failed to get past the 20 yard line three times, looking like a shell of his former self while doing so. Cribbs still knows what holes to hit of course, he was one of the best at one point, but he just doesn’t have the burst needed to be an elite NFL kick returner, something that all the guile in the world can’t completely fix.
It was enough for Raider Nation to notice on Friday, and when asked about Cribbs status and whether or not it could be attributed to a nagging injury by Scott Bair of CSNBayArea Dennis Allen was blatantly honest that Cribbs is on thin ice.
“I think we’ve got to see the burst and the explosion,” Allen said to Bair Sunday. “That’s something that we’re looking for in the next couple of games.”
Rookie Greg Jenkins returned a 51 yard kick in the Raiders preseason opener against the Cowboys and Taiwan Jones is a special teams revelation that could likely pick up the art of returning kicks if required giving the Raiders options beyond Cribbs.
Cribbs has worked out as a second string longsnapper at camp, but that is more or less due to the fact that it is unlikely he will make the Raiders as a wide receiver. If Cribbs is going to continue his career it appears that he will have to prove to Allen in the next two preseason games that he can get the Raiders much better field position than he has given them so far.
“Well, I think we’re going to continue to evaluate him over the next couple of games,” Allen said, “and see what he gives us from a special teams standpoint and as a returner.”
For now Cribbs looks lost, an injured and banged up sportscar that once had a world class engine that returned 11 NFL touchdowns. Now it seems to be an achievement for Cribbs to carry the ball out of the end zone and past the 20 yard line, if he is going to make the Raiders roster once cut downs start after the Chicago game, there will need to be more breakout runs and less tackles made deep in Raiders territory when the ball is kicked Cribbs’ way.