By Gary Fitzgerald
Posted: September 1, 2010
Brandon Banks provided the first big play of Redskins’ preseason.
Remember his 77-yard punt return for a touchdown against the Buffalo Bills on Aug. 13?
The big play had everyone excited about the 5-7, 150-pound wide receiver and kick return specialist.
Well, the Redskins’ preseason is winding down, first roster cuts have come and gone, and Banks is still in the mix.
He made a great first impression.
Now he hopes to make his final impression a lasting one.
Banks, an undrafted rookie out of Kansas State, is expected to see plenty of action in the Redskins’ preseason finale this Thursday night against the Arizona Cardinals.
In three preseason games, Banks has returned six punts for an 18.0-yard average. He has returned two kickoffs for a 17.0-yard average.
On offense, Banks has caught three passes for 64 yards, including a 29-yard catch against the Baltimore Ravens on Aug. 21 and a 20-yard grab against the New York Jets on Aug. 27.
He had a fumble – his second of preseason – on a kick return against the Jets, though.
Banks said he quickly put the gaffe behind him.
He said Clinton Portis pulled him aside and told him to put his energy and focus on the next play.
“I knew I was holding the ball a little bit loose, I should have held it tighter, my mistake,” Banks said. “[Special teams coordinator] Danny smith told me that you can’t make it in this league turning the ball over.”
No matter what happens, Banks believes he has improved in his time with the Redskins.
“I feel like I’m a better player now than I was before I got here,” he said. “All I can do is go out there and continue to do my job. Hopefully I can catch the coach’s eye.”
The Redskins’ final roster cut-down to the league-mandated 75 players is Saturday at 6 p.m. ET.
-- GO WEST, REDSKINS
When the Redskins’ preseason scheduled came out last March, many were scratching their heads about the road trip to Arizona.
Typically in preseason, non-divisional teams in the same geographic area face off against each other in preseason games.
Thursday night’s game against the Cardinals is the Redskins’ longest trip for a preseason contest in the United States since they played at the Los Angeles Raiders in 1992.
(In 2002, the Redskins traveled to Osaka, Japan in preseason to play the San Francisco 49ers in the American Bowl.)
Asked about the long road trip to close out preseason, Mike Shanahan was not concerned.
“It is a little unusual traveling that far, but nowadays, it is not as bad as it seems,” Shanahan said. “You have five hours, or five-plus hours to relax, so you have no choice. With the type of planes we fly and the comfort, it is not quite as bad as you would think.”
-- ON PUNT RETURNS
Phillip Buchanon is expected to serve as the Redskins’ primary punt returner once the regular season starts – even though he has not returned a punt this preseason.
Branon Banks and fellow rookie Terrence Austin are expected to continue to share punt returns in the Redskins-Cardinals preseason game.
“I know what Phillip can do,” Mike Shanahan said. “I’ve watched him his whole career, his pro career. I want to evaluate some of these younger guys.”
Buchanon has a 9.1-yard career punt return average in eight NFL seasons.