Brandon Banks is listed as questionable for Sunday’s game with the Bucs. The third-year player has returned virtually every punt and kickoff since he was promoted from the practice squad to the roster for the fourth game of the 2010 season.
So, if he can’t go on Sunday, who returns kicks?
When asked, Mike Shanahan said that the coaching staff would have to meet and come up with a contingency plan. Let’s see if we can figure out what they’re thinking.
According to the unofficial depth chart put out by the team’s PR staff, Niles Paul is the backup kickoff returner with Aldrick Robinson behind him. Santana Moss is listed as the second punt returner with rookie Richard Crawford listed third.
But Shanahan and special teams coach Danny Smith aren’t going to be bound by the published depth cart.
Paul has been back deep with Banks on kickoff returns all year. He has been the traffic cop, assessing the coverage and telling Banks whether he should run it out or take a touchback. If you make Paul the primary returner, you then also have to put a new person in Paul’s old role. It would make more sense to have Robinson run back the kicks and keep Paul in his current role.
Crawford had some nice punt returns during the preseason but trusting him back there during the regular season is another matter. It says here that since Crawford is the team’s nickel corner with Cedric Griffin out, the coaches will decide that he has enough pressure on him and will let the veteran Moss handle the punting duties.
All that said, it would be a mistake to write off Banks. In 2010 he had his knee scoped early in the bye week, returned after the bye, and didn’t miss a game. His motivation to play is that Shanahan might decide that a return specialist is not a good use of a roster spot if whoever performs in his place does well.