Receiver makes roster for his big-play ability
ASHBURN -- What Brandon Banks wanted was more opportunities. What the Redskins wanted was for him to earn them. And the only way that could happen was by proving himself at wide receiver.
The fact that he's still on the 53-man roster suggests Banks stated his case. It was helped by his all-around game as much as anything: Banks finished the final preseason game with 153 all-purpose yards on seven touches. Two of those came at receiver, with a 47-yard catch and a 43-yard end around. That's what Redskins coach Mike Shanahan wanted -- and needed -- to see.
"I'm a playmaker, so I want the ball as many times as I can get the ball," Banks said. "He recognizes that I have ability, and he has to trust me to put the ball in my hands. ... I'll take advantage of every opportunity I get."
Banks will return punts and kicks, as he has the past two years. How much he plays receiver is uncertain, though he could sneak his way into each game plan. Though Banks is a limited receiver because of his 5-foot-7, 155-pound frame, his speed makes him dangerous on a handful of plays.
"He proved that he can play at the wide receiver position," Shanahan said. "And if you have to put him in the backfield, you can run him as a tailback because he has such great quickness. He's a guy that's a playmaker, and he's proved that since he's been here. And we're going to find ways to get him the football."
One of which is at receiver. In the first preseason game, Banks caught only two of the nine passes thrown his way. His size was an issue as he created little separation. But against the Bucs, facing backups, he did just that on his 47-yard catch. It helps if a defender can't get their hands on him.
"A lot of guys try to put their hands on you and shift you to the side," he said. "I use my quickness and try not to let people get their hands on me. Once you get your hands on me I feel I'm at a disadvantage."
Banks said he's also improved as a receiver. At Kansas State, he played the position one year. As a senior they ran the wildcat, and he said many of his receptions came on bubble screens. Running disciplined routes wasn't a worry.
"Everybody's fast in the NFL," he said. "In college there are maybe two or three guys that had the same speed. ... There are different landmarks, and you have to be on point. If your route is at 12 yards, you can't be at 13. In college you could miss a step and be all right."
Having a healthy knee helps, too. Banks said last year his knee prevented him from cutting with the same explosiveness he had in the past. It also makes a difference in route-running, though attention to detail matters too. Banks also said he's running routes more patiently, knowing that he used to run every route at full speed and often end up "out of place."
"I want the ball as many times as I can get the ball," he said. "Hopefully I can make plays and go the distance."