Daylight has been harder to find for Washington Redskins’ return specialist Brandon Banks this season, but the speedster believes he is close to breaking a game-changing return.
Signed by Washington as an undrafted rookie out of Kansas State last season, the 5-foot-7, 155-pound Banks quickly became a fan favorite in 2010 because of his electrifying speed and diminutive stature. While battling for a roster spot during the 2011 preseason, Banks solidified himself with a 95-yard punt return for a touchdown despite a balky knee.
Banks ranks second in the NFL this season in kick return yards (525). He has a long of 47 yards. A couple of times, he has hit a crease only to be snagged as he came close to breaking the return into the open field.
“I hate the almost thing because I feel like I let the team down if I don’t get six on the board or at least get it to the 35,” Banks says. “We’re studying hard on film, and hopefully soon we can get those almosts to be touchdowns.”
Despite the league’s new kickoff rules, Banks has taken the ball out of the end zone 22 times, only one fewer than the league leader (Seattle’s Leon Washington). Banks, who now often fields kicks eight and nine yards into the end zone, rather than a yard or two, says “It’s definitely harder, the rules are doing exactly what everybody thought they were going to do. It’s part of the game and we just have to deal with it.”
Banks averaged 25.11 yards per kick return last season, a figure that has dipped slightly to 23.86. Banks said the new rules also required an adjustment period for his lead blockers. As the Redskins reach the halfway point of the season, he is eyeing a breakthrough.
“The schemes are getting better and we’re blocking a whole lot better than we were starting off, but it’s not all them. It’s about me making the better reads,” Banks said. “But we’re getting closer. We were close on one last week, so hopefully it means we break through this week.”
On punt returns, Banks’ average has declined from 11.34 yards per return last season to 9.32 yards this year. Last week he had a return of 21 yards and appeared close to breaking that runback as well, but was run out of bounds.
“Matter of time with punts, too,” said Banks, whose season-best punt return is 35 yards. “Teams have been doing a good job with their lane distribution, but we need just another foot to make a difference between a 10-yard return and a touchdown. It’s always pressure, but it’s just a matter of patience. I have big expectations for myself and I’m just waiting for it to happen.”