They average a diminutive 5'9" and 161 pounds, and thats only because Brandon Banks significantly lowers that average, but these could be the two most explosive players on the Washington Redskins. They are WR/KR's Brandon Banks and Terrence Austin. Both rookies, one a seventh round draft choice, and the other an undrafted free agent, share a lot in common.
Aside form their small stature, both men are fighting for a position on the Redskins 53 man roster come this fall at the same position; backup wide reciever, and return specialist. But that is not where the similarities end. Both players have game changing speed; something the Redskins have not seen in the return game in over a decade.
Banks played his college football at Kansas State, where he excelled as a wide receiver and return specialist in his two years. His best receiving year came in 2008 when he caught 67 passes for 1049 yards and 9 touchdowns. He also added a 98 yard kickoff return for a touchdown. In 2009, Banks lit it up in the return game with 39 kickoff returns for 1127 yards and 4 touchdowns. He also pulled in 56 receptions for 705 yards and 1 touchdown. He boasts sub 4.4 speed in the 40 yard dash, and is said to have posted a 4.4 in the 2010 NFL combine after pulling a hamstring half way through the run.
As a Redskin, Banks showed flashes of his ability in the return game when he took a punt 77 yards to the house against the Buffalo Bills. The speed he showed, made the Bills special teamers look like they were stuck in slow motion. For the game, Banks had 4 punt returns for an average of 24 yards, including the 77 yard touchdown. He was not a prominate part of the passing game.
Terrence Austin was a seventh round draft pick of the Redskins. He played his college ball at UCLA, and posted carer totals of 109 receptions, for 1192 yards and 5 touchdowns. He excelled in the return game as well averaging an impressive 24.1 yards on kickoff returns in 2008-2009. Eventhough he failed to take a return to the house, he did have an 82 yard return as a junior that was one step away from being a score. Austin ran his 40 in the low 4.4's at his UCLA pro day, and has reported times in the mid 4.3's.
In the Redskins preseason game versus the Bills, Austin caught 2 passes for 18 yards, one of which was an impressive extended grab across the middle in traffic. Austin also added 2 kickoff returns for a 24 yard average, and had 3 punt returns for 22 yards.
The delima for the Redskins coaching staff is what to do with the receiving corps this preseason. We have vetrans Santana Moss, Joey Galloway, Roydell Williams, Bobby Wade, and Mike Furrey, to go along with youngsters Devin Thomas, Malcolm Kelly, Anthony Armstrong, Banks and Austin. The staff will most likely keep six wide receivers, with at least one serving as the primary kickoff/punt return specialist. This is where things become complicated for Banks and Austin.
The staff is most likely going to have to make a descision between the two, as to which one they keep, and which one they either release, or assign to the practice squad. Moss, Thomas, and at lease one of either Williams/Galloway(or possibly both) are pretty much assured to make the team. That leaves either two or three spots left to be filled. Malcolm Kelly, who is battling yet another injury, could be one to watch over the remainder of the preseason. If he is unable to get healthy, and work his way onto the field, the former second round draft pick could become a training camp cut. By all accounts, Anthony Armstrong has had an impressive camp thus far, and is determined to make the team. He can also contribute as a special teamer, which should help his chances.
The question is, should the Redskins coaching staff choose to keep Galloway/Williams over the likes of Banks/Austin, or would it be in the better interest of the team to release Galloway/Williams, and keep both the young playmakers on the 53 man roster. Can the team live with the mental mistakes a young receiving corps is sure to make, in favor of having that big play ability on the roster, or will Shanahan and company want a few seasoned veterans to mix in with some young talent, eventhough those veterans may only have a year or two left in their football careers.
Only time will tell which direction the staff will choose to go, but one thing is for sure; we should be seeing a lot of both Banks and Austin in the next couple preseason games. Try not to blink, because if you do, your bound to miss something special.