His idea of playing receiver before was all about speed. All that mentality did is get Brandon Banks nowhere in a hurry. Instead, Banks (finally) learned there was more to playing receiver in the NFL than speed.
It’s partly why he made the Redskins’ 53-man roster for the third straight year. But this was the first time coach Mike Shanahan said he’d have to prove he could contribute as a receiver in addition to returning kicks. It’s still hard to see Banks in anything but a small role as a receiver. If the Redskins keep five receivers active on game day, Banks would be the fifth.
However, they will try to incorporate him as more than just a gimmick. Banks also said a healthy knee has made a difference when it comes to cutting. After knee surgery, he said, he struggled to cut or come out of his routes.
“Now I’m 100 percent and getting a lot of detail,” he said. “A lot of credit goes to [receivers coach] Ike [Hilliard]. He taught me a lot of things from press coverages to how to slow down in my routes instead of just running at full speed and being out of place.”
But he knows it was more than about the knee. He had to learn how to run routes correctly, something he didn’t have to do at Kansas State. There, he played wideout for only one season (as a junior with Josh Freeman). As a senior they used the wildcat.
“I did a lot of bubble screens,” he said. “I didn’t run real routes.”
Banks is not a polished product at receiver, he just has a better understanding of what he’s supposed to do. He said he’s studying more film of defenses.
“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.”
Speed kills, but patience also is required. It’s a delicate balance.
“It’s tough for me because I feel if I don’t do it fast then I won’t be on time or I won’t get open fast enough,” Banks said. “Ike, when he first got here, that’s the first thing he told me to do is slow everything down. And it worked.”
It’s hard to imagine Keenan McCardell not telling him some of the same things. And veteran wideout Santana Moss often talked about learning the same lessons as a younger receiver. But Banks had to listen this year; his job depended on it. Banks still has issues to overcome, starting with his size. If he doesn’t create separation, defensive backs can drive through him to knock a pass away. He’s a difficult target on some routes over the middle. If corners or linebackers re-route him, it’s tough for the 155-pound Banks to compensate. On his 47-yard catch vs. Tampa Bay, two Bucs’ defenders failed to get their hands on him, giving him a free run. During practices in training camp, if a linebacker re-routed him, Banks would get moved a couple yards off stride.
“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.”
In the first preseason game, Banks did not look like he was ready to contribute at receiver. In the fourth he showed signs (albeit against backups) and provided a reminder of his versatility. He finished with 156 all-purpose yards on seven touches. The reality is, he’s likely limited at receiver. He’s not big like Dezmon Briscoe; but Briscoe isn’t fast like Banks. But if Banks truly has learned lessons at receiver, he’ll show it this season.
To submit a question for Redskins mailbag, click here.
To sign up for my free weekly email report, click here.