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NAPA – Josh Cribbs looks a step slow this preseason. The veteran return man hasn’t impressed as expected, with pedestrian efforts in a pair of exhibition games.
He failed to get beyond the 20-yard line on Friday against the Saints, and three times didn’t reach the touchback plateau.
The ninth year veteran still has a good returner’s instincts and finds the right crease, but he doesn’t seem to have the speed required to capitalize on them.
After offseason knee surgery, there is some question whether he’ll get it back. Other teams passed on Cribbs this offseason, reportedly due to concerns over his knee. New York Jets GM John Idzik told local press that Cribbs’s knee wasn’t ready just two days before the Raiders signed him.
That was May 16. When asked if anything was physically hampering Cribbs’ ability on Sunday, coach Dennis Allen didn’t give Cribbs an out.
“I think we’ve got to see the burst and the explosion,” Allen said. “That’s something that we’re looking for in the next couple of games.”
Not exactly a ringing endorsement.
Neither was Allen’s evaluation of Cribbs during this training camp. Despite a sterling resume that includes 11 return touchdowns, Cribbs seems to be on shaky ground. He isn’t involved in the offense at all, meaning he must be a quality contributor on return and coverage teams.
“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.”
Despite a current lack of burst, Cribbs might still be the Raiders best option.
A few others to consider:
-- Receiver Jacoby Ford excels in that spot but remains hurt (knee) and is generally injury prone.
-- Cornerback Phillip Adams returned punts last year, but he might not make the 53-man roster.
-- Rookie receiver Greg Jenkins has returning kicks and punts this preseason, including a 51-yard kickoff return last in the preseason opener.
-- Corner Taiwan Jones has limited return experience, but has the talent and speed to do so.