Last week I listed return specialist/wide-receiver, Brandon Banks as one of the 10 most under-rated Redskins in 2012. Allow me to moonwalk away from that position today.
Although I still like his upside as a Swiss-army knife in the Redskins new-look offense (running for 20 yards, catching a 20 yard pass and throwing a 20 yard touchdown in the past 20 games), the fact is that the primary reason he has a roster spot is to be the team's return man.
Against the Giants Monday, Banks had a mediocre 20 yard kick-return to go along with 3 punt-returns that totaled 21 yards.
On Espn980's Official Post-Game show Monday Night:, the all-time best returner in Redskins history, Brian Mitchell, assessed Banks' struggles in the return game, saying:
"He kind of hesitates before he hits it... He seems to coast instead of hitting it full-speed and I think that takes away from his strengths."
Niles Paul meanwhile had a kick return of 39 yards. Mitchell suggested on the post game show that around the league usually bigger players will occupy the kick return duties while smaller, quicker guys will be the team's punt returner, adding that if Paul is capable he might takes the reins of both for the Redskins.
Danny Smith, the longest tenured Redskins coach, may or may not be phasing Paul into the return game, but he also might want to take a broader view at his system in order to improve the team's average starting field position.
Here is the list of either type of returners which have been top 10 in the NFL during Smith's special teams coaching career in Washington: 1.) Brandon Banks 9th in PRs in 2010, 2.) Rock Cartwright 8th in KR in 2007, and 3.) Ladell Betts 5th in KR in 2005. That's it. That's the list.
For those keeping track at home, that means that in 8 and 3/4 seasons one of Smith's returners have been among the league's best only 3 times. Remember, he gets a crack at each category every season. Do whatever math you want to do with those numbers - it won't come out well.
Personally, I think the most important aspect of special teams is creating and avoiding turnovers. So the fact that we haven't lost a fumble in the return game this year is a plus. (Although we have had two punts blocked) Still, there is no reason we should be toward the bottom of the league in yards per return as we have been the past two seasons, and many of the past nine. Maybe switching Banks out with someone else would help, maybe not. There is no doubt, however the return game is something the team could profit from re-examining, and if necessary re-tooling.