by Grant PaulsenBy Grant Paulsen

Brandon Banks

Playing for the first time since week-one of the preseason, Banks was trying to prove that his ailing knee won’t hinder him from making plays in the regular season. He did that. The diminutive speedster returned a punt 95 yards for a touchdown, proving once again that he’s way too elite a play-maker to be released. The only question about Banks’ roster status now is how his knee will respond to last night’s work load today and tomorrow. He returned kicks and punts for the entire game, which normally isn’t done in the preseason. My guess is that the Redskins wanted to see if his knee swells back up or gives him any problems the day after the game. He had a couple great returns earlier this month against Pittsburgh but then had to miss the next two games. If his knee isn’t going to allow him to be a durable, reliable option this season — he could be placed on Injured Reserve. But I would be shocked if Washington released him.

Niles Paul

The rookie was given an opportunity and he capitalized on it. Starting for the first time in his professional career, Paul caught three passes for 21 yards, including a nice falling first down reception that displayed stellar route-running and athleticism. Paul’s size (6-foot-2 and 225 pounds) and hands make him a commodity. A special teams standout who returned kicks and punts in college, the Redskins would risk losing Paul to another team if they released him to sign him to their practice squad. The chances of Paul making Washington’s 53-man roster are better today than they were two days ago. I could see him making the Redskins’ roster if Washington keeps seven wide receivers (in which case the team would likely on keep two quarterbacks) or if Brandon Banks’ knee issues resurfaced after his breakthrough performance on Thursday night.

Donte Stallworth

Stallworth could write a pamphlet to distribute to NFL roster-hopefuls on how to force your way onto a roster based on his training camp and preseason. He has done everything asked of him, and more, since the Redskins signed him right after the lockout ended in late July. But unfortunately, the 30-year-old, ninth-year veteran isn’t an ideal fit with Washington right now. The Redskins are getting younger at wide receiver and the team has three proven pass-catchers ahead of him on the depth chart (Santana Moss, Jabar Gaffney and Anthony Armstrong). Behind the top three receivers Washington will likely keep three or four players who are all in their first or second season (Hankerson, Austin, Banks and Paul). If Stallworth gets cut, he’ll latch on somewhere else and produce this season. He can still play. He just came to the Redskins at an inopportune time: at the start of a rebuild.

Rob Jackson

He has performed well when every he’s been afforded the chance to play extensively. Late last season when he got run at Jacksonville, he generated incessant pressure and lived in the Jaguars’ backfield. He registered a sack and forced a fumble in that game. Last night, with Brian Orakpo and Ryan Kerrigan on the bench, Jackson started for the first time this preseason and yet again, he tallied a sack and forced a fumble upon contacting the quarterback. A tight end in high school, Jackson seems to have quick feet and good mobility for a converted defensive end now running around as an outside linebacker. He also made a nice play in coverage on Thursday night, important to see because pass rushing is obviously a much greater strength for him.

Markus White

The 2011 seventh-round pick does everything at full speed. The best word to describe him is active. He makes mistakes and at times gets sucked into running lanes he shouldn’t be in, but he seems to always find a way to get back to the ball-carrier. I like what I’ve seen from White and so has Mike Shanahan, who spent a moment talking about his potential after Thursday night’s game. He’s unlikely to make the Redskins’ 53-man roster because Washington has eight linebackers more likely to be kept. But if the team decides to keep one fewer player at another position so that nine linebackers could remain active, White would likely be the defender to benefit. White, who recovered a fumble and returned it inside Tampa Bay’s five yard-line, is a very good candidate to be placed on Washington’s practice squad.

DeJon Gomes

Gomes was able to sneak up from his safety spot to help stuff the run on several occasions last night. He also batted a pass while sprinting toward the Buccaneers’ backfield at one point during his first preseason start. He’s had a terrific exhibition campaign and considering that Kareem Moore is likely to begin the season on the P.U.P list (which would sideline him until week-seven of the regular season), I’m expecting Gomes to make the Redskins’ 53-man roster. The biggest hurdle he’ll have to leap is the fact that the Redskins’ are much deeper at strong safety than they are at free safety. Gomes has spent time playing both this preseason, but Anderson Russell — one of the guys he’s fighting for a roster spot with — started at free last night. Gomes flashed consistently throughout the preseason and his upside could help him if the coaches are debating between he and an older safety for the same roster spot.

Ryan Torain

Torain shook off some offseason rust in his preseason debut last night. He ran into John Beck in the backfield and dropped a pass he wasn’t expecting early in his 2011 debut on Thursday night. But he got better as the game progressed, showing the power-rushing style that made him the Redskins’ leading rusher in 2010. He racked up 73 yards on 17 attempts, rushing for a long of 18 yards. Torain was able to run through tackles and pin-ball off of defenders on several runs, shedding would-be tacklers just like he did while he climbed Washington’s depth chart last season. I don’t think Torain was ever in trouble of being released but I’d be stunned if he wasn’t kept as the third member of a backfield that will also include Tim Hightower and Roy Helu, both of whom took last night’s game off.


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