Hester, Cribbs elevate their teams to the top spots
Explosive return men Devin Hester of Chicago and Josh Cribbs of Cleveland have their teams at the top of Scouts Inc.'s special teams rankings.
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There is no question about this one. The Bears have the most dangerous punt and kick returner in the league in Devin Hester, who marked up six touchdowns in 2007. He changes every opposing special teams coordinator's approach to coverage. Simply put, teams pay when they kick the ball to Hester. The punting duties are in good hands with Brad Maynard, one of the most consistent in the league in terms of hang time and distance, while kicker Robbie Gould kicked 31 of 36 attempts last season. With their lack of a consistent offense, the Bears rely on their special teams to keep them in games.
Josh Cribbs is an elusive, explosive returner who shows great instincts and deceptive strength when hitting a crease. Cribbs scored three return touchdowns last season and broke several more long returns that changed field position for his team. Kicker Phil Dawson is extremely consistent, but punter Dave Zastudil and his coverage team were inconsistent, averaging only 34.6 net yards per attempt. Cleveland has the ability to tip field position in its favor when Cribbs has the ball in his hands, but there is always the chance their own coverage units will give that position back.
2. Cleveland Browns
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Depth is one of the keys to success in the NFL. Scouts Inc. looks at the starters and the backups at every position and ranks each unit based on its potential production.
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• Nos. 11-32: Look who's in trouble
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• Nos. 11-32: Raiders up? Bears down? Really?
• Nos. 1-10: Pats lead the way, others closing fast
• Nos. 11-32: Super Bowl champs best of the rest
• Nos. 1-10: Gates and Chargers on top
• Nos. 11-32: Texans, Jags have youth, talent
• Nos. 1-10: Thomas leads resurgent Browns
• Nos. 11-32: Physical Jags on edge of top 10
• Nos. 1-10: Adding Allen makes Vikes No. 1
• Nos. 11-32: Eagles just miss top 10
• Nos. 1-10: Ware and Thomas make Dallas No. 1
• Nos. 11-32: Falcons on the brink of top 10
• Nos. 1-10: Jones puts Dallas over the top
• Nos. 11-32: Buccaneers are just outside top 10
• Nos. 1-10: Bears, Hester run away with No. 1
• Nos. 11-32: Rams and Vikes just out of top 10