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Redskins receivers force tough decisions

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Redskins Confidential,Sports,John Keim

They all made plays this summer, providing a reason they should stick. The problem is, not all of them will. And that will lead to some nervous moments over the next two days for the Redskins receivers.

There’s Brandon Banks, hauling in a 47-yard pass and running 43 yards on a reverse in the 30-3 win over Tampa Bay Wednesday night. There was Anthony Armstrong catching a 46-yard pass and another for 15 yards. Dezmon Briscoe didn’t have a huge night, but he did catch a 17-yarder and showed once more that his size could have value.

And Aldrick Robinson had his big night in the second preseason game vs. Chicago. He was quiet as a receiver against Tampa Bay, but he averaged 33 yards on two kickoff returns.

But from this group, perhaps only two make the final roster. It depends on whether or not they keep seven receivers, as they did a year ago (Banks was an eighth wideout, but was considered a return specialist only as Mike Shanahan said), or six. It depends what Shanahan meant when he said Banks had to make the final roster as a receiver. Does that mean he just has to show he can help on certain plays or be a full-time guy? He definitely showed the former, but not the latter.

“It’s been crazy,” Armstrong said. “Whoever doesn’t make the roster here will be on someone’s team, no doubt about it.”

“When you are deeper it’s a little bit tougher,” coach Mike Shanahan said. “That’s a problem you want to have, when you have some depth on your team. People saw that today. We are a deep team.”

Armstrong beat press coverage twice – that was a knock on him last season, according to offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan, who said those who don’t beat press coverage end up as coaches.

“I’m not coaching yet,” Armstrong said.

On his 46-yarder there was no jam by the defensive back, allowing Armstrong to use his speed on a go route.

When asked if he’d done all that he could, Armstrong said, “I hope so. Running around, covering kicks and blocking and catching passes. Hopefully it shines enough that they want to keep me around.”

Another plus for him: his ability to block and also play gunner on punt coverage.

Banks, meanwhile, provides a weapon unlike anyone else at this position because of his speed. It’s how he got open on a deep corner route in which he had a free release at the line (which he might have a tough time doing vs. starters). But his size hindered him on a slant route near the goal-line, even if the ball was thrown to his outside. It also hurt him on throws in the preseason opener at Buffalo. Defensive backs, if tight on him, can break up passes by running through him as the ball arrives.

He said he learned a lot from the Buffalo game in which he caught just two of nine passes thrown his way.

“I’m really learning how to play wide receiver now,” he said. “When I was in college I was playing slotback, running back. I learned a lot from that game. Getting off jams, how to be in the right area.”

He said he’s not nervous.

“Nah, I think I put enough on film that I’ll still have a job somewhere,” he said. “If not here, somewhere else.”

Briscoe was the most downbeat of the group, mainly because he didn’t play any special teams.

“The position I’m in that matters a lot,” he said. “So I’m not too confident if I make it or not. My offensive performance was good.”

His edge: a 6-foot-2 frame. That was evident on his 17-yard catch near the hashes.

“Having size always helps,” he said. “The quarterback can throw over the linebackers and not worry if he’s throwing it too high. If it’s too high we can go get it. It’s always comfortable to have a tall receiver running over the middle.”

Indeed, Kirk Cousins’ one interception came on a pass to 5-foot-10 Robinson over the middle, around the same area Briscoe made his grab.

“I wanted to be aggressive on the play and felt I could get it over the linebacker,” Cousins said. “I thought I did get it over the linebacker. The ball was slightly tipped, we just didn’t come down with it. The ball was there to be caught. But it was a little high. I go back and learn from it.”

Said Briscoe, “It was high for Al, but if I was in the game…”

Robinson did post big numbers vs. the Bears, with six catches for 104 yards — catching passes on five different routes — and a 49-yard catch and run on a touchdown. But he didn’t play from scrimmage vs. the Colts and had just the one pass thrown his way vs. Tampa Bay. It could be they’re trying to sneak him onto the practice squad. However, he did manage a 33-yard average on two kick returns. If other teams were paying attention to his speed, it could be hard to stash him on the practice squad. Other teams were interested in him last summer, until he put little on tape to excite them. This summer he did.

“I’ll just sit and wait man,” Robinson said. “I’ll put my phone on silence so if I do get [a call Friday] I won’t  hear it.”

Making the practice squad for a second straight season does not appeal to him.

“It would be a definite huge blow,” he said.

 

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