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Is Banks finding his niche?

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Is Banks finding his niche?

In the preseason, Mike Shanahan hinted that returner Brandon Banks might get used in new and inventive ways on offense.Last Sunday against the Bengals, the Redskins Coach revealed exactly how Banks will be implemented.The pint-sized playmaker took three option pitches from Robert Griffin III, matching his career total for carries. More important, it forced the Bengals defense to adjust on the fly and provided future opponents one more wrinkle in the Redskins offense to study.It gives opponents another dimension of the offense that theyve got to study for, Banks said. We got RG3 running the ball and throwing the ball, then we got the option. It gives us another advantage.Banks longest carry came on his first one. In the third quarter with the Bengals leading 24-17, Banks lined up behind Griffin in the pistol formation. Griffin was flanked by Alfred Morris.After the snap, Griffin faked to Morris, then pitched to Banks. Banks beat the cornerback to the outside and raced down the sideline for a 21-yard gain.Anytime I get the ball in space, most guys arent going to catch me, said Banks, who played out of the backfield in high school and some at Kansas State. Speed kills.Four plays later, Banks went in motion and again lined up behind Griffin, who faked to Evan Royster and pitched Banks. Banks mishandled the ball, but got a fortuitous bounce and gained five yards, reigniting a drive that culminated with a game-tying touchdown for the Redskins.We got to work on the timing, Banks said of the bobble. It was my fault; I was too close to him and ball snuck up on me. But I got a lucky bounce and kept going.The introduction of Banks and the triple option also caused the Bengals to adjust their defensive alignment which was exactly what the Redskins hoped it would do, according to offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan.Its something we worked on in training camp, Shanahan said. Its been in the package for the past three weeks. You kind of try to see how theyre playing their defense and when it becomes time to use Banks. Cincinnati played us in cover-2 the entire game. We got Banks in there and it caused problems for them, caused them to adjust a little bit and opened some things up.Banks added: The whole game they were playing zone. Once we started doing the option, they went to one high safety. One high safety gives the offense a lot more options to do more throwing and more routes to run in the middle of the field.Its unclear how much the Redskins intend to use Banks against the Buccaneers, or even if hell be able to play. Banks said he suffered a hip injury in practice this week. Hes listed as questionable.Long term, however, Banks hopes to keep hearing his number called.I would like to do it all season, he said. Any time I can get the ball in my hands and help the team move the ball down the field, it feels good.

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Don't count out a third straight franchise tag for Kirk Cousins, and here's why

Don't count out a third straight franchise tag for Kirk Cousins, and here's why

For the second straight season the Redskins placed the franchise tag on Kirk Cousins. While the two sides are speaking amicably about a long-term deal, the July 15 deadline for those negotiations continues to inch closer without much expectation that contract will get signed. 

A second year on the tag is unprecedented for a quarterback. In 2016, Cousins made nearly $20 million playing on the tag. In 2017, that figure goes up to $24.

If the Redskins don't get a deal done with Cousins, many think the organization would not again go with the franchise tag because the price tag jumps to an exorbitant $34 million. 

Think again. 

Asked on Monday if another franchise tag would be an option for Cousins in 2018, Redskins team president Bruce Allen was clear.

"Yes," he said. "In the collective bargaining agreement, we really have one year and an option that we can do at the end of next season if we don’t get a contract."

Those options include the exclusive franchise tag, the non-exclusive franchise tag and the transition tag. Both franchise tags carry the same cost, but the non-exclusive allows Cousins' representatives to shop his services around the NFL. If a deal gets struck, and the Redskins don't match the contract, Washington is due two first-round draft picks as compensation for losing their franchise player. 

The transition tag carries a $28 million price tag, and the Redskins can match another contract but risk only receiving a possible 2019 third-round compensatory pick if Cousins walks.

Considering those options, another year on the non-exclusive tag might make sense. The NFL salary cap will be at least $168 million, which means Cousins at $34 million would account for about 20 percent of the Redskins' salary cap.

That's a crazy allotment for one player. Crazy. The Redskins do have about $54 million in cap space for 2018, so technically, another franchise tag could work. 

But the entire manner of the contract dealings with Cousins and the Redskins has been quite unconventional. The Redskins have already made history by franchising Cousins a second-straight year. 

"I think even Kirk said it, there’s a lot of players round the league who are on a one-year deal. It’s the nature of it, we’d like to get him a long-term deal and I think he should want to get one," Allen said. "Kirk’s played well on a one-year contract the last two seasons."

At this point, it doesn't require a degree in advanced mathematics to understand that the Redskins and Cousins have a different picture of the quarterback's long-term value. That could change by July 15th, it could, but it doesn't seem likely. The Cousins camp has little incentive to bend, as $24 million fully guaranteed for 2017 represents a great payday.

And maybe the Redskins don't plan on bending because the option of a third-straight franchise tag doesn't worry them. Or at least the option of letting Cousins shop his services on a non-exclusive tag, and then making a decision to match a deal or receive compensation seems a worthwhile endevaor. 

For Cousins, he's not counting out any possibility. 

"People, I’ve heard say, ‘There’s no chance they franchise tag him or even transition tag him the following season,’ and I chuckle because if the team has franchise tagged me for two years in a row," Cousins said to an ESPN podcast in March. 

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Redskins' offseason program ramps up with start of OTAs today

Redskins' offseason program ramps up with start of OTAs today

The Redskins’ offseason starts to move into high gear today as organized team activities, better known as OTAs, get underway at Redskins Park.

Players have been participating in workouts at Redskins Park since April 17. The first phase of those session consisted of strength and conditioning. In the second phase, they were permitted to run plays but not with the offense lined up against the defense. Finally, in OTAs, they will go offense vs. defense.

RELATED: Who are the Redskins' roster locks?

The practices, however, will not resemble an August scrimmage in Richmond. The players wear helmets but no pads and contact is not permitted. While players do block other players and there are collisions between players going after passes, the action is more like pushing and shoving that it is hitting.  

The part about no contact should be taken seriously. Seattle ran afoul of the no-contact rule last year and it cost them. The Seahawks were fined $400,000, lost their fifth-round pick in this year’s draft and they will not be permitted to hold their first week of OTAs this year. The Redskins will be very careful to keep within the rules.

MORE REDSKINS: Allen says new stadium ahead of schedule 

OTAs will be held on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday in each of the next three weeks. The sessions will be open to the media on Wednesday of each week. While player attendance is strongly encouraged the practices are voluntary.

The week after OTAs end the team will hold its minicamp on June 13-14. Minicamp is essentially a continuation of OTAs but player attendance is mandatory.

Stay up to date on the Redskins! Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page Facebook.com/TandlerCSN and follow him on Twitter @Rich_TandlerCSN.