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.
Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins repeatedly sounded optimistic about his ongoing contract negotations with the organization, though he acknowledged the talks will probably go until the last minute.
"Deadlines do deals," Cousins said.
Speaking Wednesday to the media after an OTA session, Cousins explained that talks with the Redskins have been positive and ongoing. He also admitted that he doesn't expect a deal to get finished before the July 15th franchise tag deadline.
In 2016, conversations between the Redskins and Cousins largely broke down before the tag deadline. That seems to be a different story in 2017, and while it may only be a glimmer of hope, it's an encouraging development for Washington fans that want to keep their passer.
"It's been very positive," he said. Of July 15th, Cousins said, "it will be a telling date, as it was last summer."
Over the last two seasons as starter, Cousins has thrown for more than 9,000 yards, twice breaking the franchise single-season passing record. In 2015, Cousins emerged in the second half of the year to play some terrific football and lead the Redskins to a division title. In 2016, Cousins never quite hit the same highs as 2015, but was much more consistent and piled up passing yards.
Redskins team president Bruce Allen said earlier this week he remains positive about a long-term deal for Cousins. Allen maintained that talks are ongoing with Cousins' representatives, and similarly to Cousins, expects the bulk of the talks closer to July 15th.
Want more Redskins? Click here to follow JP on Facebook and check out @JPFinlayCSN for live updates via Twitter! Click here for the #RedskinsTalk on Apple Podcasts, here for Google Play or press play below. Don't forget to subscribe!
You would think that after spending two years as the team’s third-down back, playing more snaps than any other running back last season, and getting a second-round restricted free agent tender that will pay him $2.7 million this year, Chris Thompson might feel comfortable as the Redskins start up the final phase of their preseason program.
But Thompson says that he is as nervous about making the team as he was when he was a fifth-round in 2013.
“Even after the last preseason game when you guys talk to me I’m going to still be nervous when that time comes around because I never forget that feeling,” he told reporters on Monday prior to the Redskins charity golf tournament at Army-Navy Country Club.
“For me, I’ve just got to come out here and work every day to try to secure my job.”
The approach has worked for him in the past. He struggled with injuries his first two years in the league, playing a total of just six games. In 2015 he found his niche as the third-down back and he hasn’t given it up.
In fact, he may get more opportunities on first and second downs.
“I have a feeling that I might get a little more this year,” he said. “He [coach Jay Gruden] knows that I’m healthy and I can stay healthy. I think that was one of his biggest concerns, that I can handle the load. I think I’ll get a lot more opportunities.”
Rob Kelley is expected to be the starter and fourth-round pick Samaje Perine should get a significant number of carries. If Gruden plans on Thompson getting more work on the ground, that likely means that the Redskins anticipate running the ball more ofent than they did in 2016, when they were 27th in the NFL with 379 rushing attempts.
Health is key for Thompson. He not only played in all 16 games for the first time in his career last year, he came out of the season in good health. Not having the need to rehab is allowing Thompson to work on refining his game.
“[Being healthy] helps me to get away and focus on the little things that I need to work on,” he said. “Having a full offseason, being able to get away, I’ve been able to focus on those things. Just like my quickness, my route running. I know my route running is big for me to make it in this league so I work on that. . . that was my main goal.”
Thompson’s work ethic and his mindset where he takes nothing for granted have served him well. He will be an unrestricted free agent in 2018 and if he continues to produce he will be setting himself up for a nice payday.
RELATED: OFFSEASON NFL POWER RANKINGS