1. Here’s the thought process on Brandon Banks: 47-yard catch? Keep him. How can you cut speed?! 43-yard run? Keep him! Muffed punt? Corner breaks up a pass because of his size? Cut him! This is the debate and it’s a big one. Banks offers value and danger on punt returns; on a team that is searching for speed how do you let his go? Then again, size is an issue. On the failed slant in the red zone, Banks provides a difficult target. A corner is going to play for a short, quick pass against him so they’ll be able to run through him. That’s basically what happened; the pass was behind him – whether by design or by mistake – but had it been out in front I’m not confident Banks would have made the play. I know he caught the deep ball, but I can’t imagine he’ll get many clean releases off the line as he did on that play. Credit Banks, but ding the Bucs for not even bumping him off his route to disrupt the timing. Sometimes his speed prevents the defense from getting their hands on him, but still. His size always will be a negative. It limits what he can do at receiver; then again other players speed limits them. If he had to make it as a wide receiver, well I’m not sure he did. But if all he had to do is show he could help at this position? Well…
2. Tough to make a whole lot of his punt returns because just about every punt left him with room to return. Would others have gained similar yards on those plays? He looked for lanes and couldn’t find any, but these were the sort of punts that should lead to long returns. Is that his fault or the blocking? If it’s the blocking, that can be corrected because some of the players who sat will be on these units. Banks tried to be patient and then spot lanes, but it didn’t work. He has the speed and acceleration to be a little patient on these runs, more than most guys.
3. We’ll see you next summer, Kirk Cousins. But I guarantee when we do see him next summer a lot of scouts will be paying attention to see his growth. He certainly showed a lot this summer to warrant being a No. 2 in 2013 and a player to watch for the next couple preseasons. He handled the situational aspects well: third downs; red zone; two-minute drill. On a third-and-18 in the first quarter his first option was taken so he immediately dumped it off to Evan Royster for nine yards. It’s not a first down, but he didn’t make a mistake. He put his team in a good spot. He scrambled up the middle on third and 8 for 11 yards and slid. OK, that’s a basic but it was the right call. On a first-and-10 from the 14-yard line he rolled left, had no one open and threw it out of the end zone. Next play: Royster ran 13 yards. Finally, Cousins completed three passes for 40 yards to move the Redskins into field goal range in the final 43 seconds.
4. Cousins definitely was not perfect. He got away with one in the first quarter, throwing an out pattern as he was falling backwards to Josh Morgan. Not a wise move. Against starters, that ball should be intercepted and it nearly was. He got a bit aggressive on the interception down the right seam to Aldrick Robinson. Cousins has shown he’s an aggressive passer and that will lead to big plays and big mistakes. But Cousins showed a lot more than most fourth-round picks probably have.
5. Now, more on the interception because there is another aspect to it. This is not about Robinson as much as it is about Dezmon Briscoe. It’s about his size and it’s why Briscoe remains intriguing. No, he didn’t play special teams and that can be revealing. So, too, is the fact that he didn’t play until the second half. Part of that is because they wanted to get Leonard Hankerson and Josh Morgan some time after missing so much action last season. But Briscoe continues to use his size well. On his one grab he worked the inside in a tight window, but provided a big target for Cousins. You can throw with more confidence to a guy with size in that situation and the quarterback has the ability to drop it over the linebacker a little higher. That’s what Cousins did. But on his interception, that’s what he couldn’t do to Robinson, who is four inches shorter. What else does Briscoe give you? Tough to say; he never played special teams and he doesn’t have terrific speed. If you want to read not playing teams, well, it’s not good. But, like speed, size is valued.
6. Robinson showed this summer he can hurt teams on other routes, though he was quiet from scrimmage in each of the last two games. He might make the team on that touchdown in Chicago based on Mike Shanahan’s reaction to that play, how he brought it up a couple times two days later. Robinson also showed he could help as a kick returner. He made good, strong cuts and I liked that on his first one as he was breaking free of a tackle his eyes were focused downfield, helping him spot an opening en route to a 35-yard run. I wouldn’t want him returning punts (he never did it in college, fumbled twice last year and looked rough catching them in pre-game the past two weeks). But the Redskins showed they have options between Robinson and Niles Paul if they cut Banks. It would have been nice to see Robinson follow up his big game vs. Chicago with another strong outing, but he didn’t play vs. Indianapolis and he was targeted once Wednesday.
7. Have to pound the Richard Crawford angle a little more. The interception was terrific for a couple reasons. One, he displayed excellent technique, staying on the outside because he had safety help on the inside. And then the quarterback threw it to the outside. Crawford then turned into a wide receiver and he changed how he reached for the ball based on the position of the receiver’s hands. Yes, he read his hands on the play. This is a smart kid. He is not a perfect corner, otherwise he wouldn’t have been picked in the seventh round. But he appears to be a good find.
8. I like what Bryan Kehl did on the interception, undercutting the route and making a nice return. Looked like he played a solid game, though in all honesty by the time the fourth quarter rolls around I’m typing pretty fast to finish a story. Kehl would have to agree with this: veterans better make plays in the fourth quarter of this sort of preseason game. That doesn’t mean he won’t make the team – keep in mind that he could have intercepted three passes this summer – but it does mean you can’t assume he will based on tonight. There are probably only so many special teams gurus they can keep, even Kehl knows this. Meanwhile, second-year Markus White looked better than he did Saturday. Didn’t think he showed much if any explosion off the line, largely because he didn’t use his lower body enough. But Wednesday night he looked better in that area, bending his knees and showing a little more strength. Is it enough?
9. Anthony Armstrong did what the coaches wanted: beat press coverage. Twice. On the first one, an inside route, it looked like the DB tried to jam him after he took off, but didn’t get a good one and Armstrong was open. On the second one there was no attempt to jam and he got by the DB for a 46-yard catch. Armstrong can play gunner and blocks well as a receiver. He plays hungry and that’s a good thing, too. Even though this is only his third season, he is 29 and probably as good as he’ll ever get. His hands have been inconsistent this summer, so that’s an issue. But he can help. Honestly, this is the most topsy-turvy the receiver position has been. It’s a good sign and the wideouts who will make the roster all have made plays to show they belong. There’s no Joey Galloway in this group. That doesn’t mean they’ll have a great group, but it is a deeper one. There are a lot of receivers on edge and all of them played that way over the last couple weeks.
10. The big question will be whether or not they keep seven receivers. It’s tough to justify nine offensive linemen right now — if they kept that many, they’d be unable to keep seven receivers. Guard Adam Gettis hasn’t proven he’s deserving of a roster spot – saw some struggles Wednesday in the first half, unable to finish some blocks, angles to the second level. Love his makeup, but he needs seasoning. Did Willie Smith do enough? He played better the past two games after some early struggles. He’s eligible for the practice squad. Would they rather have Jordan Black as the swing tackle? He or Willie Smith likely will make the roster – or they’ll find someone off the waiver wire this weekend.
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