Ravens Notebook: Cribbs on Baltimore’s radar

Street Talk Ravens Notebook: Cribbs on Baltimore’s radar

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OWINGS MILLS — Josh Cribbs will be a marked man Sunday, especially in light of how the Cleveland Browns’ Pro Bowl return specialist dominated the Baltimore Ravens’ special teams a year ago.

In a 33-30 overtime victory over the Ravens last season, Cribbs piled up 306 return yards with 245 yards gained on kickoffs. His 39-yard return in the final minute of regulation set up Phil Dawson’s game-tying field goal.

The Ravens are expected to engage in directional kicking tactics to try to prevent Cribbs from creating outstanding field position.

"We’ll do whatever we can to try to limit his production," said Ravens special-teams coordinator Jerry Rosburg, who helped develop the former

quarterback into a  special-teams star when he was running the Browns’ special teams. "He’s a fine returner, and everybody tries things all during the year with guys like Josh Cribbs and Devin Hester. He’s a great challenge for us."

Cribbs led the NFL last season with a 30.7 kickoff return average with two touchdowns. He also averaged 13.5 yards per punt return with
one score.

"Our whole game plan and the way I punt is directional," punter Sam Koch said. "We’re all going to be surrounding him, trying to gang-tackle him and make as many plays as we can."

Although there are faster return men in the NFL, Cribbs’ size and power at 6-foot-1, 215 pounds is a major asset.

"He’s a strong athlete," Rosburg said. "He’s a big, strong guy, and he’s got a great stiff arm. He’s a powerful player, he’s got powerful legs.

“He’s the kind of returner who doesn’t wait for you to tackle him. He’ll go after you first.”

The Ravens will attempt to counter Cribbs with their own standout return specialist in Yamon Figurs.

Figurs is the only Ravens player to ever return a punt and a kickoff  for a touchdown in the same season, and he averaged 25.3 yards per kickoff return as a rookie.

Where Cribbs relies on his ability to break tackles, Figurs’ game is based primarily on his speed and elusiveness.

"They’re quite different styles," Rosburg said. "Yamon, as you know, is a high-speed racer, and Josh is more of a power player. They play the game differently, but they both play at a very high level."
The Ravens used Figurs as a gunner on punts in their opening-game win over the Cincinnati Bengals, recording one tackle.
"Yamon has that breakaway speed as a gunner," Koch said. "That’s going to be good to let him get down there and stop Cribbs for no return."
Figurs had five kickoff returns for 120 yards the last time the Ravens played

"I’m looking forward to the matchup because they’ve got good special teams and we’ve got  good special teams," he said. "This should be a lot of fun."
McGAHEE UPDATE: Although running back Willis McGahee is no longer listed on the injury report one month after undergoing arthroscopic surgery on his left knee, it doesn’t look like he’s going to be featured in the offense Sunday.
McGahee is expected to have a limited role with Ray Rice and Le’Ron McClain taking the majority of the carries.
"He’ll complement Le’Ron, you guys know how we feel about Le’Ron and his ability to play both positions," offensive coordinator Cam Cameron said. "Ray, he’s just getting better and better. Those are the two backs that we’re going with, and Willis’ role will increase."

McGahee rushed for 1,207 yards and seven touchdowns last season, but missed the majority of the offseason minicamps and admittedly reported to training camp out of shape.

When asked how much he expected to play, McGahee replied: "I don’t know. Sunday, I envision myself running out there playing a regular game and trying to make plays. I’m going to play, regardless of if I’m sharing or not. The knee is good. It’s just the act of me going out there and playing on the football field, knocking the rust off."

TACKLE SHUFFLE: Veteran offensive tackle Willie Anderson is preparing to make his Ravens debut and is expected to rotate behind starter Adam Terry on the right side.


is in the game, Terry will likely shift to left tackle in relief of Gaither.

"We’ve got three tackles that we’ve got a lot of confidence in," Cameron said. "There could be some scenarios where Adam is in there at left and Willie goes to right. With Jared Gaither, it’s kind of a three-man situation.

"Obviously, Willie has a role in this game. You’ll see him on the field. He’s an extremely bright guy. He’s picked it up as quick a s anyone I’ve been around.”

signed a three-year, $11 million contract prior to the season-opener after being cut  by the Cincinnati Bengals. His comfort level with the playbook is increasing.
"I’m still in catch-up mode, but I’m much further ahead than I was two weeks ago,"

said. "Adam is doing a great job right now, so I’m waiting to see how they handle the reps and what the coaches have in store for us."
INJURY REPORT: Nose guard Kelly Gregg (left knee) didn’t practice again and is regarded as unlikely to play. He underwent arthroscopic surgery last month, and Justin Bannan is expected to start in his place.
"We’re missing Kelly, there’s no doubt, but we feel pretty good about the guys that we have that are going to play," defensive coordinator Rex Ryan said. "When we brought Justin in, it was to be a starter. Justin’s an excellent player in his own right."

Linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo (right ankle) and cornerback Corey Ivy (sprained right ankle) didn’t practice. Ayanbadejo is considered a question mark for this game.

Figurs (hamstring), linebacker Nick Greisen (thigh) and cornerbacks Derrick Martin (shoulder) and Fabian Washington (neck) were limited in practice.
Tight end Todd Heap (wrist), offensive tackle Marshal Yanda (knee) and wide receiver Demetrius Williams (hamstring) participated fully.
QUICK HITS: The Browns ruled out tight end Martin Rucker (knee).  Linebacker Willis McGinest (hamstring), wide receiver Donte’ Stallworth (strained quadriceps) and offensive guard Eric Steinbach (shoulder) didn’t practice. … Heap is understandably eager to put his last game behind him. He dropped a potential touchdown and lost a fumble. "You’re not going to make every play," he said. "Obviously, this is the week where I want to go out and perform well. I just don’t fumble." … Ryan praised rookie safety Tom Zbikowski, the team’s third-round draft pick from Notre Dame. Zbikowski is a former heavyweight boxer who won his pro debut by knockout at

. "When we drafted him in the third round, it was for a reason," Ryan said. "We loved his passion, we loved the kind of person he was, the kind of athlete he is. That intensity that he brings we saw that in his fight. We showed that clip to the defense and wanted everyone to know why we got Zbikowski in the role that we got him. Plus, nobody’s going to mess with him anymore." … The Browns returned 350 tickets to the Ravens that are now available for sale.
Aaron Wilson covers the Baltimore Ravens for the Carroll County Times and the Annapolis Capital.

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Aaron Wilson

About Aaron Wilson

Aaron Wilson covers the NFL for National Football Post as well as the Baltimore Ravens for The Carroll County Times and Ravens24x7.com. He has previously covered the Jacksonville Jaguars and Tennessee Titans and has covered the NFL since 1997.  He has won several regional writing awards, including, most recently, Best Sports News Story for the state of Maryland in voting conducted by the Associated Press managing editors.  More from Aaron Wilson


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