Despite down year, Cribbs still concerns Ravens

Considered by many one of the top kick returners in the NFL, Josh Cribbs' numbers have been rather pedestrian this year.

The six-year veteran made the Pro Bowl in 2007 and 2009, averaged more than 26 yards per kickoff return and 11 yards per punt return coming into this year and had 10 return touchdowns to his name.

This season, however, the Browns' return specialist has struggled to get going. He's averaging only 20.8 yards per kickoff return, with a long of just 36. His punt return average is down to 8.2 yards per return, and his long in that category is 17 yards.

Still, the Ravens know Cribbs is an explosive playmaker, and they're well aware they have to bring their best effort on special teams to contain him.

"He can break one at anytime," head coach John Harbaugh said. "I spent a lot of time on the special teams tape this morning, just kind of going back through it, and he really hasn't had opportunities. People have not kicked him the ball. He's had very few just straight-up kickoff return opportunities. They've been squibbing it, they've been lobbing it, they've been kicking it over to the sideline on punts, kicking it out of bounds. He's just had very few opportunities, (and) I think they block as well as they ever have. We're just going to have to be on top of our game, because he could make the difference. He has before."

One aspect which could have played a factor in Cribbs' declining numbers is his health. The former Kent State quarterback dislocated four toes (which sounds brutally painful) back in Week 9 and had to miss a game as a result.

Cribbs' numbers prior to the injury weren't all that impressive, however - he was averaging 20.9 yards per kick return and 8.6 yards on punt returns. Still, Ravens' special teams coordinator Jerry Rosburg, who worked with Cribbs his rookie season when they were together in Cleveland, knows full well what he's capable of.

"I know he's had some issues, but I think one of the things that's clear when I watch the video is that everybody respects him so much," Rosburg said. "And I think if you look at the numbers he's had, he hasn't had that many clean opportunities, and I think that's probably the biggest thing. Everybody respects this guy; they know what he can do, and you just don't want to put the game in his hands."

Cribbs has burned the Ravens in the past - he returned seven kickoffs for 245 yards back when Baltimore and Cleveland squared off in November 2007, and posted a 92-yard kickoff return for a touchdown the following season.

"It doesn't matter what the numbers are, he's still Josh Cribbs and he can hurt you if you don't do your job the right way," Ravens running back/special teams contributor Jalen Parmele said. "We know what we need to do special-teams wise. We have to have one of our best games of the season against these guys."

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