I first saw Banks in a game between Nebraska and Kansas State. It was November 15, 2008. In That game Banks returned a kick 98 yards for a TD. That kickoff return tied for the fifth-longest in school history. Oddly enough, on the other side of the ball Nebraska’s Niles Paul was busy garnering his own attention as a wide receiver and special teams player. He returned 2 kicks for 38 yards in that game as well as recovered a Deon Murphy fumbled punt which led to a Nebraska TD. Oh yeah, and Roy Helu rushed for 72 yards and 2 touchdowns.
The Wildcats returned an interception 57 yards for a touchdown to go along with the Banks TD, but that didn’t matter much as they were outyarded 610 to 247. K State’s QB that day, current Tampa Bay Buccaneer Josh Freeman, was knocked out of that game with a concussion after being sacked 4 times! (Kansas State had given up just 11 sacks coming into the game). Nebraska went on to win 56-28; it was a great game and Banks was a big part of it, but I digress.
Brandon Banks. Let me say I love seeing Banks on the field. However, he plays for a team that pays very close attention to players’ activities off the field and that could weigh in on Shanahan’s decision.
Banks was available during the 2010 draft but nobody was interested. The Redskins signed the undrafted free agent right after the draft and it appeared Shanahan and Allen had found the next Dante Hall/Devin Hester.
During the first half of the season in 2010 Banks was second in punt return yards in the NFL, but then he tore the meniscus on his left knee and had surgery on November 3. Eight months later, during training camp in 2011, he missed some of the pre-season when the knee became swollen after running just a few pass routes in practice according to Shanahan. Which is probably why Shanahan decided to keep Banks as solely a return man. When he did come back he seemed rusty and had some trouble holding on to the ball. Banks didn’t have one return for a touchdown during the regular season. He did have one pass he threw for a touchdown, although it was not pretty.
There’s also the off-field issues. Banks was stabbed outside a D.C. club called Park at Fourteenth in Feb 2011 at about 3 am after starting an argument with a stranger. Banks was hospitalized with a punctured lung from the incident.
Later there was this poor choice of events to become associated with, the Stadium Club Redskins Takeover featuring Banks, Maurice Hurt and Markus White.
Seems harmless enough to me, but it did seem to cause an uproar in the media. These off-field incidents just don’t go over well with Shanahan. See Jabar Gaffney – twitter rants. Shanahan just seems to frown upon anything that brings a negative light to the team.
At 5 foot 7, 149 pounds, Banks was once the lightest player in the NFL. After being told by Shanahan that in order to make the team he would have to also be a part of the receiving corps, Banks appears to be up to the challenge coming in healthy and adding ten pounds. He has shown no ill effects from his troublesome knee through OTA’s and seems to be fitting in well with the receivers.
However, getting a spot on the 53 man roster of the Redskins is not an easy chore, by far. He will be competing with:
Think about that for a minute…
1) Considering the money Garcon and Morgan got they will make the team and contribute at a high level.
2) Shanahan has raved at how great Moss looks.
3) With the flashes of brilliance we saw last year from Hankerson, he has to be part of the equation.
4) After spending almost the entire season on the practice squad Aldrick Robinson will be chomping at the bit. Don’t expect a repeat of 2011 from him.
5) Anthony Armstrong will be back to his old form as a deep threat and look for at least one of the rookies to make the team.
That’s 7 WR’s already. As if that’s not enough, take a look on the roster at the number of guys with return experience:
Paul was a beast returning kicks for Nebraska, Crawford did much the same at SMU, Austin looked great filling in for Banks when he was injured; Bernstine was famous for his return abilities at Iowa. Hall and Morgan have both been return men at the NFL level and Robinson, even though he had a little fumble issue last pre-season has magnificent speed and will have a shot.
In short, Banks’ chances are slim even if he does prove to be a good WR. His off the field antics, his small body, the tough competition at WR and KR/PR, along with his injuries all plan to figure in.
Would I like to see him in Burgundy and Gold in 2012? Absolutely, but that isn’t my decision and frankly, I’m glad for that.
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