The Washington Post

Redskins who helped their cause on Thursday

If his roster spot at a crowded wide receiver position was in doubt, Brandon Banks (16) reminded the Redskins how valuable he is with a 95-yard punt return. (John McDonnell/The Washington Post)

Here are some Washington players who needed to impress coaches and made the most of their opportunity in the final preseason game.

Brandon Banks – The Redskins’ return specialist entered the final preseason game on shaky footing with questions about his durability looming overhead. He had a solid outing in the preseason opener, but his surgically repaired left knee swelled up the day after the game, and he hadn’t played the rest of the way.

Needing a strong performance Thursday night, Banks racked up 197 all-purpose yards and a touchdown. On his 95-yard punt return for a touchdown, Banks looked just fine. He made one cut and was off to the races.

There’s a chance the knee sidelines him off and on this season, but he’s too valuable a threat to cut. Scary thing is, Banks says he still isn’t 100 percent. If he can ever fully recover, his cuts should be more precise, making him even more elusive.

Best guess: He makes the 53-man roster.

Markus White – Drafted out of Florida State in the seventh-round, White has made a rather smooth transition from defensive end to linebacker. In the previous preseason games, he hadn’t made a lot of plays, but his effort was obvious as he was always around the ball.

Thursday night, however, everything finally came together for White. He recorded six tackles including a sack. He also scooped up a fumble and returned it 37 yards to the Tampa 2-yard line to set up Washington’s first touchdown of the game.

If the Redskins weren’t so deep at outside linebacker, with Brian Orakpo, Ryan Kerrigan, Rob Jackson and Lorenzo Alexander, White would have a very good shot at making the 53-man roster. If he makes it through waivers, the practice squad is a good place for him to continue to develop, and if Washington has an injury, he’d get a promotion.

Best guess: Practice squad.

Mike Sellers – The 13th-year veteran entered training camp fighting to remain on the team. A fixture at fullback the last seven seasons, Sellers was relegated to fourth-string tight end as coaches decided to go with second-year pro Darrel Young as their starting fullback.

But on Thursday night, Sellers reminded everyone how valuable he can be in a variety of ways. With Young getting the night off, Sellers started at fullback over second-year back Keiland Williams, who had been auditioning for that No. 2 spot. Sellers recorded two catches for 14 yards and opened holes for the team’s running backs.

Sellers was on thin ice, but a number of circumstances help his cause. His experience and ability to make plays on special teams, for one. Also, with tight end Chris Cooley’s left knee still less than 100 percent (Cooley hasn’t played all preseason), Sellers gives the Redskins an insurance policy as a third tight end.

Best guess: Makes the team.

Rob Jackson – After spending the bulk of the last three seasons on the practice squad, Jackson entered the preseason looking to secure a full-time spot on the 53-man roster and has done well.

If there was any doubt about Jackson’s progress in Year 2 of his move from defensive end to outside linebacker, he answered it Thursday night with two tackles, a sack and forced fumble.

As good as Jackson has looked this preseason, the argument could be made that he is currently the second-best outside linebacker on the team – behind Brian Orakpo. Rookie first-rounder Ryan Kerrigan will continue to start opposite Orakpo, but Jackson should have plenty of chances to make plays.

Best guess: Makes the team.

Donte Stallworth – The veteran receiver had his most active night of the preseason, playing most of the game and recording five catches for 80 yards – including a 41-yard touchdown reception.

Stallworth finds himself at a crowded position, however, and Santana Moss, Jabar Gaffney, Anthony Armstrong. And the Redskins are high on the potential rookie Leonard Hankerson and Niles Paul have to offer.

Despite his production, it just might not be enough for Stallworth. He can still play in the NFL, that’s no question. But the 30-year-old is entering his ninth season, and Washington has talented young players.

Best guess: Released.

Niles Paul – The rookie wide receiver got the start opposite Anthony Armstrong with Moss and Gaffney receiving the night off. Against Tampa Bay, Paul looked solid as he has all season, making three catches for 21 yards.

He also contributed on special teams, and that’s the area he can best help the team. John Beck went to him in the end zone twice, but Paul didn’t score either time. One time was Beck’s fault, as he threw a high-arcing pass that ended up getting picked off by D.J. Johnson. The second time, Paul cut in rather than out while running a fade that he would’ve been open for had he been in the right spot.

Still, coaches love the 6-foot-2, 222-pound Paul’s size and speed. Like Stallworth, however, he’s at a very crowded position.

Best guess: Practice squad.

Mike Jones covers the Washington Redskins for The Washington Post. When not writing about a Redskins development of some kind – which is rare – he can be found screaming and cheering at one of his kids’ softball, baseball, soccer or basketball games.



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