Friday, December 3, 2010, 10:00 p.m.
By Ryan OHalloran
Having already contributed to the Redskins this year as a kick returner, punt returner, receiver and Wildcat formation quarterback, whats next for rookiespark-plug Brandon Banks?
Hes ready to air it out, offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan joked.
To that, the normally willing-to-do-anything Banks isnt so sure.
I aint trying to throw no ball, he said. Im either running or handing off.
Against Minnesota last week, before his 77-yard go-ahead punt return for a touchdown was wiped out by penalty, Banks carried twice for 6 yards, the first time in recent memory a Redskins team had used the Wildcat, which puts a player like Banks in the shot gun and the quarterback at receiver.
Banks doesnt figure to get involved in the passing game, but taking the snap was just another new thing added to his work load.
Week 4 at Philadelphia: Elevated to active roster and returned punts.
Week 5 vs. Green Bay: Following Devin Thomas release, Banks takes over the kick return duties.
Week 12 vs. Minnesota: The Wildcat is unveiled.
Coming soon: More time at receiver.
Banks early November knee surgery limited his practice time and playing time at receiver but the Redskins are slowly working him in he played four snaps against the Vikings.
I think hes feeling better every day relative to his injury, coach Mike Shanahan said after practice Friday. The more reps he gets, the better football shape hes in, the better opportunity he has to play at the wide receiver position.
But if the Redskins are to beat the New York Giants Sunday, the teams surprise player will have to continue his strong work on returns. Entering this weeks games, Banks ranked fifth on kickoff returns (27-yard average) and tied for eighth on punt returns (11.3-yard average).
Listed at 5-foot-7 and 155 pounds, Banks turned heads in the Redskins locker room after being signed out of Kansas State.
When I first saw him, I said, What is my 6-year old son doing out here? defensive lineman Phillip Daniels said.
But then Banks started turning heads on the field.
I quickly realized it Dude, this guy is fast, Daniels said. You knew he had the speed so a lot of guys figured he would help us out somewhere.
Linebacker Chris Wilson, a member of the punt return team, pulled Banks aside during the off-season practices. When he played for the British Columbia Lions, Wilson played with another former Kansas State returner Aaron Lockett, who was listed at 5-foot-8 and 155 pounds.
I was like, If youre anything like Lock, he made a good living doing this, Wilson said.
Hes been all that and then some, Wilson said. You can tell he runs with his heart. He makes you want to block for him.
Wilson is one of the punt return units holdovers from last year, when Antwaan Randle El had more fair catches (19) than returns (17). In his last two years, Randle El had 40 fair catches.
Banks has 10 fair catches against 24 punt returns. He has punt returns of 53, 24 and 35 yards.
On kickoff returns, he has a 96-yard touchdown and nine gains of at least 30 yards. (See chart below).
Its very interesting to watch on tape, H.B. Blades said. There are creases only he can get into. He has quick acceleration and gets to full speed quickly.
Blades said punt return was an off-season priority for the Redskins.
We wanted to get that ranked as high as our special teams units, he said. We practiced more, worked on different techniques and tried to switch up some things to give our offense an opportunity with a short field.
Banks has managed to avoid the monster hit and has been reliable holding on to the football, something he struggled with in the preseason. His key?
Just being a little more patient, forcing them to collapse pursuers and then get around them, Banks said.
While continuing to do the returns, Banks does hope the Wildcat becomes a regular part of the Redskins offense.
It was fun to get the ball in my hands in open space, he said. Hopefully we can do it more and get some yards.
Game-by-game punt and kick returns for the Redskins Brandon Banks (his first game was Week 4 at Philadelphia):
PR: 53, 6.
PR: 30, 20, 17.
KR: 15 (62-yard return negated by penalty), 18.
PR: 16, 17.
KR: 23, 44, 22, 19, 24.
PR: 9, 6, 5, 1.
KR: 14, 29, 21.
PR: minus-4, 24, minus-4, 35, 7.
KR: 23, 46, 11 (95-yard return negated by penalty), 96 (TD), 10, 27.
KR: 30, 23, 22, 22, 23, 38.
KR: 21, 21, 34, 18, 26.
PR: 7, 14, minus-5, 4, 0 (77-yard TD negated by penalty).
KR: 6, 32, 20, 65.
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