Reporting Grant Paulsen
It goes without saying that the 2011 change in kickoff rules negates the impact Banks can have on games. But as he proved once again on Saturday night in Chicago, he can still change games with monster special teams plays as a punt returner. His 91-yard touchdown return was exactly what he needed to have an inside track to a roster spot, especially after struggling to catch the football despite being targeted nine times as a wide receiver one week earlier. Banks is a favorite of special teams coach Danny Smith, and he seems to have found some of the burst and wiggle that eluded him during a down 2011 campaign. Proving that he can be a valuable punt returner could be all it takes for Banks to become Washington’s “last WR in,” whether that means he becomes the club’s fifth or sixth wide-out.
Crawford worked in the nickel for the second time in as many weeks, and proved capable of getting home on a pair of blitzes from the slot. He delivered two blows to the quarterback on the two blitzes that saw him come free, something he said he has never been asked to do before this preseason. He also defended a pass he almost intercepted and broke up another pass later in the game. The strong showing against the Bears came just nine days after Crawford contributed an interception and a 17-yard punt return against the Bills. I’ve got Crawford as the fifth-rated cornerback on the Redskins’ roster right now, a couple of spots higher than where he started training camp. The only question for me is how many corners do the Redskins keep on the 53-man roster? Do they keep four or five? If they keep five, Crawford could very well be one of them.
Morris got the starting nod in Chicago and made the most of his chance to prove capable against a starting NFL defense. His first two carries — which netted 21 and six yards — came on Washington’s first and second plays from scrimmage. But after racking up 27-yards on his first two attempts, Morris gained just seven yards on his final eight rushes. Morris makes this list because of how he ran the ball, though. He was physical and ran through tackles consistently, sometimes even on short gains (including on one play where he ran through contact four yards in the backfield and ended up gaining one-yard). He’s a bruising back who runs with good balance and always falls forward. I still don’t think Morris is in any way a lock to make the 53-man roster, but it is getting less likely that he’ll be able to clear waivers (to be placed on practice squad).
Robinson finally used a game-situation to showcase the speed and route-running ability the Redskins’ coaching staff has been praising him for, catching six passes for 104 yards and a touchdown. The second-year wide receiver made his six catches on five different route variations, including hauling in a 49-yard touchdown pass on a dig route that he had the option to turn into a post or set down underneath. He made the right decision, digging his route into the middle of the field before catching a well-thrown pass from Kirk Cousins and winning a race to the endzone. Robinson is one of Washington’s fastest straight-line runners, and he showed an ability to get to full speed very quickly on the scoring strike. I don’t yet have the SMU product as one of the six wide receivers the Redskins will keep on the active roster, but performances like the one he delivered against the Bears explain why Washington’s coaching staff is enamored with the 23 year-old.