One of the many problems that led to the Detroit Lions’ poor 2012 record of 4-12 was special teams. While the team gave up many big plays on special teams and let teams return kickoffs and punts for touchdowns, the team struggled to do the same.
Stefan Logan, the team’s return man for the past several years, has not been re-signed and will all but likely be out of Detroit for the 2013 NFL season. So who fills the hole left by return man? The Lions took one man in the 2013 NFL Draft that could step up in Darius Slay. I profiled the speedy cornerback and almost anointed him the starting return man.
Joique Bell through a wrench into that puzzle by saying he wanted to return kicks. This came after the signing of Reggie Bush left Bell with a lesser role on offense. Now, the Lions have put a bigger question into the return game by meeting with free agent return specialist Josh Cribbs.
Cribbs has played with the Cleveland Browns since 2005, when he was signed as an undrafted free agent. Over the last eight years, Cribbs has been one of the most dominant return men the NFL has seen. His eight kick return touchdowns remain tied as an NFL record and he doesn’t appear to be stopping yet.
In 2012, Cribbs had 38 punt returns for 457 yards and a 12.0 yard average. Cribbs also returned 43 kicks for 1178 yards and a 27.4 yard average. These averages ranked second best and third best respectively for Cribbs’ career. Compare those averages to the Lions, who averaged 20.0 yards per kick return and 8.6 per punt return.
Cribbs has over 10,000 kick return yards in his eight season career. He was named to the Pro Bowl in 2008 and 2010. The former Brown was also part of the NFL All-Decade Team in the 2000s. If the Lions want to improve their return game, they certainly will be meeting with the right man this week. The competition remains high, as Cribbs has also met with the New York Giants, New York Jets, and Oakland Raiders. However, if the Lions can land this highly coveted free agent, their special teams should see a dramatic improvement.