Should the Redskins Keep Brandon Banks

August 16, 2011 in Uncategorized

Now I realize asking this question is sacrilege to many Redskins fans, but it deserves to be asked. For as electric and talented a player that Brandon Banks is, he has yet to prove he can offer anything to the offensive side of the football. With a far improved depth chart at receiver this year, including many young talents, Banks will need to show versatility to make the roster. Now there are a lot of arguments for retaining Banks, but when looked at closely they don't hold up to scrutiny. Here is my take on the following arguments:

The new kickoff rule won't have a huge impact on the return numbers:

False, going into last night's preseason game the touchback % through the first 15 games was 33%, up from 16.4% from the regular season last year (last night's game might have dropped it a percentage point or two). That is a 100% increase and if anything that number is exceedingly low. Many teams are acknowledging that they are trying to kick to initiate a return so they can work on their coverage teams. The Bears in fact took it to an extreme, and purposely set up their first two kickoffs from the 30 (the old position) before the league came in and stopped them. In addition teams are returning a number of kicks that are 4-9 yards deep in the end zone that typically would be knelled down, as they try to work on their return games. Also, given that is is preseason two other factors work against getting an accurate percentage of touchbacks. First we saw a higher number of offside penalties on the kicking team, which forced re-kicks from the 30 yard line. Second, a high number of kicks are being done by 2nd tier kickers who have no shot of making the opening day roster. Combine all these factors and you are looking at a percentage that is a lot higher than 33%, in fact it wouldn't be surprising to see the number in the 40's.

Even With the extra touchback's Kick Returners will still have a major impact on the game:

Wrong again, remember this isn't exactly new ground for the NFL as kickoffs were from the 35 from 1974-1993, so we can see what impact this rule change will have. Last season for instance there were 23 kickoff returns for touchdowns, by comparison in the four years prior to the rule change (1990-1993) there were a total of 24 kickoffs returned for a score. Kickoff yardage is also dramatically different as we are used to seeing between 15-20 guys with over 1,000 return yards (and many of them 1,300+), but previously you'd see one maybe two guys sneak over the 1,000 yard mark. Now a lot of that has to do with the opportunities as, there would maybe be one to three guys with 40 or more returns the last time the kickoffs were from the 35, compared to that being essentially the floor for return men of late. The decrease in yardage though had another factor as yards per return were down across the board. Whereas now it is basically a standard for a 24 yards or more return average, it was just over 21 yards prior, with only a handful of guys cracking the 24 yard mark.

Now I realize some people will say that the new rule limiting the run up to the kickoff to 5 yards will help keep returns a big part of the game, but I don't think it will have the impact that some people are making it out to be. Remember that the last time that kickoffs were from the 35, return teams could form wedges to block, which the lack of I would bet counterbalances any advantage given by the shorter run up.

Banks has the talent to be the exception to the new rule, look at his 58 yard return in the preseason game:

Look Banks is a talented return man and was very good for the Skins last year, but he wasn't great or exceptional. Sure for Redskins fans he was a nice boost to a return game that hasn't had a legitimate threat since Brian Mitchell. Mitchell is a perfect example as to why this rule change will impact Banks. Mitchell is one of the best return men ever to play the game, but his value as a kick returner was non-existent until they moved it back to the 30 yard line. Mitchell's kick return numbers in 1993 are quite ordinary, 33 returns, for 678 yards and a 20.5 yards/return average. In 1994, when they moved it back, he had 58 returns for 1,478 yards and a 25.5 yards/return average. That does not bode well for Banks, and considering that there are multiple return men who are more talented, Banks isn't likely to be the exception to the rule.

As for his 58 yard return in the first preseason game, that was nice be we can't judge his impact on a single return. Banks won't be allowed to return balls like that (9 yards deep in the endzone) during the regular season so if anything it is a fluke play. Banks could have just as easily been tackled at the 15 yard line, and will have that happen at times during games.

Even with the decreased kick return chances, Banks should make it because of his punt return ability as well. Banks is our best return man and no one else can do what he does:

This is a twofer, yes so far we have only looked at kick return ability, but punt return's aren't nearly as valuable as kick returns, and shouldn't be a deciding factor. With the new rule change Banks would probably have more punt returns than kickoff returns, but even still the chance for touchdowns is lower (or at least was lower), and the yards per return is far lower. Now that isn't to say those yards aren't important, but rather unless you are a touchdown machine like Devin Hester, the impact isn't as great.

That leads into the other statement that makes Banks out to be the only one who can return punts and kicks for the Redskins. The way you hear Redskins fans tell it, it sounds like our options are Brandon Banks or Antwaan Randle El. In fact the Redskins have multiple additional options, all of whom are better receivers and can help out other special teams units as well. Second year receiver Terrence Austin was a very productive return man in college, and showed some of that in the first preseason game as he had a 19 yard punt return late in the game. Austin has improved his route running and looks like he could be an effective depth receiver, if the Redskins had an injury or two. Rookie Niles Paul was a big time returner at Nebraska, who was constantly a threat to break a big one, in addition to being the team's top receiver as well. Paul has had a good camp so far and could surprise as a rookie as a part of the offense. Fellow rookie Aldrick Robinson, didn't have a great first impression when it came to special teams last Friday as he muffed two punts, but that shouldn't be held against him. Last preseason Banks had his share of muffed punts and fumbles and he turned out alright as a return man. Robinson had little return experience in college, but he has electrifying speed, and would be able to help out on offense as well. That is three guys, who have the ability to be very good return men just like Banks. Now Banks is likely a little better than them (though it is possible that one of them would even be better than Banks), but the difference is probably negligible. Banks might average a 1-1.5 yards more per return, and have just the slightest chance more to return one for a touchdown. That small of a difference doesn't outweigh the ability of these other receivers to contribute on offense this year, as well as in the future.

The Redskins can afford to keep Banks on as an extra player and keep all the receivers they want to:

I just don't see how this is possible, after subtracting the 3 roster spots for the special teamers (kicker, punter and long snapper), that leaves 50 roster spots to split between offense and defense. Hopefully the Redskins are smart and split it down the middle, 25 for each.

Right now here is how the Redskins offense breaks down: (note some of the players could change)

3 QB's: Grossman, Beck, Clemens

3 RB's: Hightower, Helu, Royster

2 FB's: Young, K. Williams

3 TE's: Cooley, Davis, Paulsen

6 WR's: Moss, Gaffney, Armstrong, Hankerson, plus two more

8 OL: T. Williams, Lichtensteiger, Montgomery, Chester, J. Brown, Locklear, W. Smith, Hurt

That is 25 players right there, and even if the team decides to keep only one FB, they could add an additional RB (i.e. Torain), a TE given Cooley's uncertain health, or another offensive lineman. The one thing that doesn't make sense is to add essentially a 7th WR, who only plays on two units kick return and punt return. He isn't on any coverage units, like say a FB or TE, or a blocker like another offensive lineman could be. So the real question is can Banks make one of those final two receiver spots.

To me the short answer is no. Right now I'd put veteran Donte Stallworth as well as the young receivers Paul, Austin and Robinson all ahead of Banks on the depth chart. All four players should be at least solid offensive weapons if need be. Paul has the potential to develop into a starter down the line, and Austin and Robinson have all the makings of being a 3rd WR in the future. The three young guys can all be quality return options as mentioned above (and Stallworth can return kicks in a pinch as well), and Paul and Stallworth can be on coverage units for punts and kicks as well. Given that talent and utility, I can't see how Banks makes it above three of these four guys.

  • Megan Shoup

    Banks has the potential to be a touchdown machine like Devin Hester. Much more than say Aldridge was the potential to be an amazing 3rd receiver. He is a threat both in punt returns and still with kickoff returns. AND I think they should use him more this year in wildcat or trick offenses.

    Will you admit you're wrong when Banks has 5 return touchdowns for us this year?

    • Steve Shoup

      there are going to be maybe 20 total return TD's (both KO and PR) total this year, and you think Banks will have 25% of them…wow

  • Geoff

    Do you think there is any chance the NFL changes the rule back after the preseason if there is a lot of fan backlash much like the NBA did with the new basketball that got such poor reviews a few years back?

    • Steve Shoup


      Honestly no, they might change it in a couple years, but I think they will at least give it a shot. The NFL is going to want to see how much this actually does reduce injuries.Also since the NFL has done it from here before, it isn't exactly new ground.

  • beltwayboysports

    This is what I'm talking about Redskins fans! LOL Nothing like a good debate, LOL. I hate the new rule, but your question and position on Banks' value is valid. I'm not sure how much he can contribute to the offense. I like him returning both kickoffs and punts, but this will be interesting to watch. We are going to say goodbye to some talented players this year on cut down day. When was the last time a Redskins fan could say that with a straight face?

    • Steve Shoup

      haha good point Beltway, some of these cuts will be tough.

  • Nick Hanson

    You speak with a deeper logic and wisdom than most Skins fans, Steve.

    I have to agree with you that Banks is one of the more expendable players on the team. Despite being a rather bright spot on what was a pretty dismal team last year, I think he remains somewhat unproven, and we have depth needs at other positions that cutting him would allow us to attend to.

    Personally, I'd much rather hang onto Torain, punt Banks, and perhaps stick Paul in the return position.

    Now, I think it's every fan's fear that Banks will go elsewhere and make the Pro Bowl, as many orphaned Skins have in the past, but I think we must look past that. If this truly is a team with a new philosophy, I'd like to think that dumping a specialist will not hurt the bigger plan.

    Less specialists. More utility players. It sure as hell seems to work for the Pats.

    • Steve Shoup

      haha, thanks Nick,

      Yeah i agree I think what people are forgetting is we are talking about a return man, I mean with the new rule, combined he could get 800-900 KO yards and 400-450 PR yards. That's nice, but you figure that a guy like Paul will put up nearly the same numbers, maybe a yard-two yards less per return, which would be a combined total of just 100 yards less. That really isn't a huge deal when you think about it.

  • ENsDad

    I think they keep Banks or possibly trade him, a return man with his abilities would be a valuable addition for a team like the Chargers. If Banks is gone, I think it would open up a spot for Niles Paul who can not only be a return man but also can play gunner as well as WR.

    • Steve Shoup


      if he was healthy maybe they trade him, but it could be tough now. Maybe they'll try to stash him on IR. I just have a hard time seeing them keep Banks, as I think the top 5 spots (Moss, Gaffney, Armstrong, Hankerson, Paul) are locks, meaning Banks needs to beat out Stallworth, Austin, and Robinson.

  • Megan Shoup

    It would be nice if we could trade him then instead of cut him. I'm still Team Banks!

    But if need be maybe IR stash him this year. Then next year trade either him or Austin so that we still have a couple return guys but get something back as well.

  • TCO

    You make a good argument for how the rule change will impact Banks. One minor kvetch. I think you overvalue Paul. He has not shown himself better than Austin or Stallworth in preseason. He's a fifth round pick. He belongs on the practice squad. We can't afford to keep both him and Hankerson "because someone might take him". Realize if someone snags Paul then they have to put him ON THE 53. In which case, they will expect him to produce. Not just be stashed and maybe develop in a few years.

    I'm actually tempted to put Hankerson on the PS too given how raw he is. But definitely Paul. I'd probably rather have Devin Thomas on the 53 than Paul. At least DT kicks butt on coverage teams and the like.

    • Steve Shoup

      Both Paul and Hankerson would have to pass through waivers, and I would guess that both would get picked up. Paul and Hankerson have a lot of promise and are producing in practice. Most teams would have room for a promising player like that and would take them easily over a returner like Banks.

  • TCO

    Stallworth would get picked off waivers faster than Paul. He's a known quantity that can help a team that is short. Paul is not going to produce on the field help for any team this year. the only danger is that someone signs him to their PS (and he goes). And if so, big deal. We should not over-rate WR prospects. Yeah…someone might roll the dice on Hank just as a prospect…of course…he's even further away from on the field production.

    I'm much more worried about Royster getting snagged off of a PS when a team has a runner go down. He's clearly better than Davis or Draughn or that kind of back. Not premier for sure. But an easy number 3. And halfback is basically an instinct position unlike WR where they need to learn to run routes and how to do hot reads and the like.

  • TCO

    Stallworth looked good tonight. It wasn't just the TD, but the special teams play. He seems like a smart veteran.

    Think you have to give Banks his due as well. 2 TDS in 1.5 preseason games. And he had a very solid return average on the non-TDs.

    Paul looks OK, granted…but not as good as Austin, Stallworth or Banks. The "danger" of him getting snagged is over-rated. He can go on the PS (and even if we lose him…very unlikely we do…but even so…we have a 5th round pick next year anyway.)

    • Steve Shoup


      Stallworth has looked good in the preseason, but with Moss, Gaffney and Armstrong they are set at veteran players. Since he isn't signed beyond this year, it makes no sense to keep him over the young guys. He i'm sure will find a job elsewhere, but it doesn't impact the Skins at all.

      As for Banks, he only had one TD this preseason, and let's be honest that was a horrible kick. Sure it is nice to see him breaking it to the house, but anyone was going to get a good return with that blocking and that bad of a kick. He averaged just 23.5 yards on KO returns last night, and some of those yards were from the end zone. He took three kickoffs from the end zone and got, 16, 25, and 32 yards on them. Unfortunately 10 of those yards were from the endzone so he really got just 63 yards. If he kneeled all 3 times he would have gotten the Redskins 60 yards.

      Paul has far more potential than Stallworth and Banks, and actually even more as Austin as well. Giving up on him is a HUGE mistake.

  • Megan Shoup

    I certainly hope they keep Paul over Stallworth! Hope they make room for Banks as a 4th special team specialists and cut from a back-up of another position (3rd QB?). Can't wait to see who are team is Saturday!!

  • Alex

    You have got to be kidding me to consider cutting Banks. Who cares about how many times he returns kickoffs or punts for TDs….he sets the team up in decent field position whenever he returns the ball. True – we do have a lot of decent WRs to pick from this year and Banks certainly doesn't rank near the top of that list with respect to his ability to run routes and catch game-changing passes. However, that can be worked on and he can be used in crafty plays and even some running situations. His upside is unreal….and he would be picked up by almost any team in the NFL looking for a good return guy.

    • Steve Shoup


      What upside? He loses value b/c of the kickoff rule. Not just the TB's but the lack of yardage. And he has zero ability as a WR. Even the Redskins are acknowledging this. I'm sure a couple teams might give him a look, but most teams have just as good (or better) returners or don't care enough to waste a roster spot on them.

  • TCO

    They started kicking away from Banks. If teams do that, it has a benefit as well.

  • TCO

    If Stallworth makes it and Paul (or even Hank) get cut/PSed, I think it can be a real positive for team morale. Shows that we want people to work and perform. Look how AA made the team (crappy background, but played his way on). Austin same thing…took his lumps in PS, but showed enough. Same with Banks really.

    We have played the movie of going after raw WRers that are TALL and just stashing them and it gave us Malcomb Kelly and Devin Thomas (and cost us taking Davarious Jackson). I say enough of that…cutting a third round draft choice could be good just for leadership and "encourager les autres" (what Napoleaon said about firing generals or chopping heads or something).

    Also Stallworth showed a lot more at WR than GAlloway or Williams. And he sucked it up and did a great job on teams (where has Hank been on teams? At least Devin Thomas balled on coverage and returns. Heck at least Paul does!) Stallworth has been damned humble. I'm rooting for him.

    • Steve Shoup

      Here's the thing though? How are Hankerson and Paul not working hard? Paul has been repeatedly noted for his work ethic and how impressive he has been in practice. And while Hank isn't doing much on ST, he too is known as a hard worker. I know he has dropped some balls, but I think that is easily corrected.

  • TCO

    Yeah…they are both hard workers. I guess that is good in character. They are still "projects" like Malcomb and Devin Thomas were. Not guys you want taking reps in games (if you are competeing to win).

    I'm glad that all the guys made the team. We can both be happy about that. Obviously we are not done yet. Shanny will try to work a trade or to sneak a guy (or two) onto the practice squad later this week, while we go pick up OL/DL (or maybe CB or SS). I find it hard to beleive anyone will put Paul on their 53, given the guy is not productive this year and was a 5th rounder. Same with Hank, although a bit more danger there that he gets picked off. They will still be practicing if on PS. And they aren't getting many game reps anyhow with Moss/Gaffney/AA/Stalloworth/Austing all playing the actual position better at this time.

    I do think Hank spending some time with Danny Smith would be good for him in a weird way. There were a few plays where he looked worried about the safety coming to make a hit. I don't think it is some awful badge of fear. And he has size and likes to knock the other players on blocks. But he is used to college and not the NFL. In the NFL, the defensive players are more aggressive, faster, more dangerous and just….closer to him. And if he is on the 53 and actually dresses, it's a way for him to contribute.

  • Alex

    Well after week one we can clearly see that you were right about Banks not being much of a factor. With that said…the argument, that the new kickoff rule will diminish the success of the return man, was clearly rebuffed by the kick off return highlights from this weekend. I think that this year will serve as a noble experiment to see how teams treat kickoffs when they have the ability to boot it well into the endzone each time.

    In addition, I really like watching Banks return kicks and punts, he's so small and quick. I haven't been this excited to watch a redskin return kickoffs since Brian Mitchell was doing it. I won't say I have the correct opinion yet, but I think I might have my mind made up at the end of this season.

    • Steve Shoup


      Yes the return highlights were impressive, but since the majority of kicks are going for TB's it is still really devaluing the return game.

      I think there is something to be said for having a good returner, but they better at least be able to be a 3rd RB, like Sproles or a 5th WR like Cobb/Ginn. Having a return only guy just doesn't make sense to me. especially with it leaving holes at other positions.