Cribbs Sneaking Up on Team Record

The Browns kick returner isn't sure if his quick career numbers are a good thing or not....

Josh Cribbs needs only 49 more yards to become the Browns' all-time leader in kick returns in just his third season. He isn't sure if that's a good thing or a bad thing.

"If I'm returning a lot of kicks, it means the opposing team is scoring on us," Cribbs said. "I'd be happy if I only returned one or two a game, because that would mean our defense was shutting them down and we'd be winning."

Cribbs might have the chance to return a bunch of kicks Sunday when the Browns play the Patriots in Foxboro. The Patriots have scored 148 points on 19 touchdowns and five field goals. Adding the four kickoffs to start the game or second half means the Patriots have kicked off an average of seven times a game.

Cribbs leads the NFL with 549 kick return yards and a 34.5 return average. He had a 99-yard return for a touchdown against the Raiders, an 85-yard return against the Bengals and a 41-yard return against the Ravens, among others.

While speaking to reporters covering the Patriots, New England coach Bill Belichick said Cribbs is 'one of the most impressive players I've seen in a while' because Cribbs also returns punts, can line up as a receiver, be used on gadget plays and cover on kick and punt returns. Still, kick return is his specialty.

"I love Josh Cribbs," said Browns kicker Phil Dawson. "I'm glad I only have to kick to him in practice. That's challenge enough.

"I can relate. He's an undrafted kid who came into the league and had to earn his way. He continues to make play after play. He's the kind of player I think fans of the Browns can really identify with and appreciate."

Special teams have been key to the Browns 2-2 start, and not just because Cribbs has been so dynamic on kick returns. Though Dawson was happy to talk in glowing terms about Cribbs, he is quietly making everybody forget the slump that dragged him down in 2006.

Like Cribbs (Kent State, 2005), Dawson entered the league as an undrafted rookie. The Raiders signed him after the draft in 1998. The Patriots claimed him and put him on their practice squad. The Browns signed him as a free agent in March of 1999. He has been kicking for them since then.

Dawson is six of seven on field goal tries heading into the game in Foxboro Sunday. He would be a perfect seven of seven and the Browns would be 3-1 if Nat Dorsey hadn't missed a block on kick protection in Oakland Sept. 23, a mistake that allowed the Raiders' Tom Kelly to block Dawson's 40-yard field goal attempt on the final play. Oakland won, 26-24.

Dawson is five for five in Cleveland Browns Stadium, a place that has been treacherous for kickers even in good weather because they often have trouble setting their plant foot. The Ravens' Matt Stover, normally one of the most accurate kickers in the league, missed wide right from 46 and 41 yards last Sunday.

Dawson has had three holders in four games. Paul Ernster held in the opener, Dave Zastudil held in the second game and Scott Player held in the last two. Dawson has had to play musical holders because Zastudil has been bothered by a strained oblique.


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