Last month, Redskins Coach Mike Shanahan said return specialist Brandon Banks also must contribute at wide receiver if hes to earn a spot on this seasons roster.On Sunday, Banks reaffirmed his intent to meet Shanahans challenge.Im not nervous; Im more ready and excited, Banks said during his youth football camp at Georgetown Prep. If I can get the ball in my hands, I can go the distance anytime I touch the ball. But Ive got to be able to get into the right areas for the quarterback to get me the ball.And that, right there, is the catch for Banks as training camp opens at Redskins Park this week.The 24-year-old is well established as a punt and kick off returner, having filled that role each of the past two seasons in Washington. Now, though, the diminutive fan favorite has about a month to prove he can run routes, overcome his size disadvantage, find openings in coverage and, of course, snag Robert Griffin IIIs powerful passes, too.There are 12 wide receivers currently listed on the Redskins roster. That deep corps is headlined by free agent additions Pierre Garcon and Josh Morgan, veteran Santana Moss and the emerging Leonard Hankerson.In minicamp, Banks saw time at each receiver spot and impressed the coaching staff. Hes also reportedly packed 10 more pounds onto his 5 foot 7, 155-pound frame.My mindset is to contribute at wide receiver, show the coaches I can run a route, catch the ball and make plays without a punt return or kick return, Banks said. Thats my main concern. Im just trying to get a connection with the quarterback, so hopefully I can be here this year.In addition to practicing his route running and studying the playbook this offseason, Banks said he also spent time at rehab facilities in Arizona and North Carolina working on strengthening his left knee, which required surgery in 2010. Lingering discomfort in the joint bothered him off and on most of last season, too, he conceded.Im a hundred percent, Banks said. I went back to the doctor that did my surgery, and he checked me out and told me exactly what I needed.I went back home to Raleigh, he added, and really focused on myself and my rehab. Its back. Im back. Im back in full effect.Banks understands the daunting task hell face in the coming weeks. But hes also confident that his skill set and specifically his speed and elusiveness will ultimately help him secure one of the 53 spots on the opening day roster.I dont think nobody has an advantage, he said, referring to the receivers he must beat out. Guys have certain skills, certain talents. Mine is speed.
If Josh Norman's production on the field in 2016 matches up with his first few weeks as a Redskin, where he's churned out spectacular quote after spectacular quote, the Carolina Panthers are going to be kicking themselves. Then they'll probably kick themselves some more.
Norman delivered throughout his opening press conference with the team, and has nailed other interviews with various outlets. A recent piece he wrote for The Players' Tribune, however, is undoubtedly his best work yet. The whole thing is riveting, but here are the five coolest chunks from his work, which is titled, "Steal Your Bologna."
5. When he talks about the day he first picked up football.
Norman opens the article by revealing that, as a youngster, he'd be left out during games of basketball. Because of that, he'd be forced to get shots up by himself on "the crooked-ass rim with no net." In case you aren't aware, shooting on bent rims that don't have a trace of nylon completely sucks. Those definitely weren't the greatest days for little Norman.
Eventually, though, he found his calling. Allow him to explain.
"One day, they made a mistake. They messed up. They let me put on a football helmet. They let me get in the dirt. Now, all of a sudden, the same dudes who used to steal my [spot on the court] were hearing a very particular sound. It’s a sick sound, really. I’ll never forget the first time I heard it. It’s the crack of a football helmet obliterating some poor dude’s chest protector. Then you hear him wheezing. You see the spirit draining right out of his body."
Having your spirit drained doesn't sound like a nice experience, but it's a tremendous visual.
4. When he writes about the kinship he feels with a particular superhero.
Everyone's got a favorite superhero. The All-Pro corner is no different. But the reasoning behind his pick is what's notable.
"My favorite superhero since way back was always Batman. I always related to Bruce Wayne because he came up through the darkness, and so did I."
Spiderman would've been a solid pick for Norman considering they both have sticky hands, but the darkness idea is much more powerful.
3. When he describes his mentality.
What's your mentality in life? "Do your best?" "Never give up?" Whatever it is, prepare to feel lame when you hear what mantra Washington's pricey aquisition follows.
"From the first day I put on a football helmet I have repeated the same three words to myself every time I go out on the field: seek and destroy. Seek and destroy everything."
Sure, that may not work for a barrista at Starbucks or a dental hygienist, but it fits Norman's profession perfectly.
2. When he turns the narrative of the Draft being the proudest day of a player's life upside down.
When Norman was taken in the fifth round of the 2012 NFL Draft by the Panthers, was he ecstatic? Was he full of glee?
"I was pissed. Because that’s just who I am. That’s how I got here. Fourteen other cornerbacks went before me. I wrote those names down. Oh yeah, I did. Very few people believed in me, and I’ll never forget that."
1. When he gives a shoutout Odell Beckham.
Early on in his writing (and now you'll understand the title he chose), Norman discussed how, growing up, his older brothers would steal his bologna and he simply let it happen out of shyness. So, in his final paragraphs, he brings back that image as he mentions Odell Beckham, who he probably likes less than those crooked-ass rims from his childhood.
"When Odell and I went at one another last year, people got mad. Imagine that. People who watch this sport every Sunday and say they love it actually pretended to be offended. They don’t see the beauty in it. They don’t see the truth.
"But Odell and I, we know the truth. Anybody who makes it to this level knows it. The truth is that on the football field, he’s trying to steal my bologna, and I’m trying to steal his.
"See you twice a year, bro."
Friendly reminder: Only 143 days until Redskins vs. Giants.
Scot McCloughan raised a few eyebrows when he signed Vernon Davis to a free agent contract on March 31. The Redskins general manager has talked about staying away from bringing on veterans in their 30’s, believing that they often bring bad habits and attitudes from their former teams at a high price.
But he made an exception last year when he traded for 31-year-old safety Dashon Goldson. And this year he signed Davis to a one-year contract that can pay him as much as $4.5 million if he hits on all of the incentives.
There is a simple explanation for McCloughan adding these two (relative) senior citizens to his roster. He drafted both of them when he was in San Francisco. He knows that both of them are his type of “football players”.
McCloughan wanted to make sure the Davis still had the desire to play before signing him.
“I brought him in to sit down and talk with him, make sure he still had the passion, the energy to play,” McCloughan said to Mike Florio on PFT Live on Tuesday.
Evidently McCloughan thought that Davis is in the proper frame of mind because he signed him to that potentially lucrative contract. And now that the team has assembled on the field to continue offseason workouts, McCloughan says that Davis is showing he is physically ready to go as well.
“I wish you could have seen him yesterday on the practice field because Phase 2 started yesterday,” he said. “He’s the same guy. He’s explosive as all get out, he’s smiling.”
Davis’ production has taken a precipitous slide in the last two seasons. He went from a Pro Bowl 2013 season with 52 receptions for 850 yards and 13 touchdowns to a combined stat line of 64/640/2 in the past two seasons. Some of the decline can be attributed to age but he also didn’t exactly have the best quarterbacks throwing him the ball as he attempted to catch passes from Blaine Gabbert and Colin Kaepernick in San Francisco and an aging Peyton Manning and inexperienced Brock Osweiler after he was traded to Denver.
McCloughan believes that Davis is back in his element. He graduated from Dunbar High before playing at Maryland. According to McCloughan it looks like Davis still has the athleticism that made him draft him sixth overall in 2006.
“He’s very excited. He’s a genetic freak,” said McCloughan. “He’s one of those guys who’s never been hurt. He’s 32 and when I look at when I drafted him, he’s the same guy. It’s amazing. He’s got speed and quickness still, you know what, people downplay it but he’s a good blocker, too.”
Any blocking help that Davis provides will be a bonus. He was brought aboard to team up with Jordan Reed and create nightmares for opposing defenses. If he can do that nobody will care how old he is.
Over the next week, Redskins Insider Tarik El-Bashir is featuring each of the Redskins’ 2016 draft picks and spotlighting three things you need to know about them. Up today…
Name: Su’a Cravens
Drafted: Second round (53rd overall)
1—Since declaring for the draft in December, Cravens has been asked, oh, about a thousand times which position he'll play in the NFL. Well, five months later, his role is still probably best described as TBD, according to Redskins GM Scot McCloughan. “The thing that’s really cool about him is the diversity he brings—safety, linebacker, maybe a nickel linebacker, maybe a nickel corner,” McCloughan said Monday at Redskins Park. “We’re always talking about the first room he walks into. Is it the DB’s? Is it linebackers? But that’s a good problem to have, because again, he’s going to be out here making plays for us.” Although McCloughan isn’t ready to commit to a position for the 6-1, 226-pound Cravens just yet, the team has dropped a few hints as to their intentions. He’s listed on the team’s website as a safety and he’s been assigned jersey No. 36, which is typically reserved for defensive backs.
2—Cravens has football in his blood and seemed destined for athletic greatness from an early age. Not only was he Rivals.com’s No. 1 rated safety coming out of Vista Murrieta High (Calif.) and USA Today’s Defensive Player of the Year in 2012, his family tree features a number of accomplished football players. Cravens counts Miami tight end Jordan Cameron and San Diego linebacker Manti Te’o as cousins; he said both Cameron and Te’o reached out to him during the draft process to offer advice. Meantime, Cravens’ mother is related to former Bengals safety David Fulcher and his older brother, Siaki, was a defensive lineman at Hawaii and Utah. “Probably about a week before the draft, Troy Polamalu [a fellow USC product] reached out and texted me and said, ‘If you need to talk to me about anything, if you get flustered or frustrated, just call me if you need me,’” Cravens said at his introductory press conference. “So I’ve had a pretty good support system.” Pretty good? That’s an understatement.
3—Put on some USC film and one thing jumps out almost immediately: Cravens is ALWAYS around the football. In fact, the only thing more impressive than his instincts and athleticism are his stats. During his sophomore and junior seasons, Cravens totaled 154 tackles, including 32.5 for loss, to go along with 10.5 sacks, five interceptions and 15 pass breakups. Cravens believed his tape was good enough to make him a first round selection. And when that didn’t happen late last Thursday night, he immediately went to the gym to blow off some steam. “I looked at it as, I wasn’t good enough to go on the first day, so let me get into the gym tonight and let me prove that I’m good enough to go in the second day,” Cravens said. “I’m all about work. If I feel like I’m not working hard enough, I’ll get back to it.” If you're a Redskins fan, you've got to love that anecdote.