By Tarik El-Bashir
In the preseason, Mike Shanahan hinted that returner Brandon Banks might get used in new and inventive ways on offense.
Last Sunday against the Bengals, the Redskins’ Coach revealed exactly how Banks will be implemented.
The pint-sized playmaker took three option pitches from Robert Griffin III, matching his career total for carries. More important, it forced the Bengals’ defense to adjust on the fly and provided future opponents one more wrinkle in the Redskins’ offense to study.
“It gives [opponents] another dimension of the offense that they’ve got to study for,” Banks said. “We got RG3 running the ball and throwing the ball, then we got the option. It gives us another advantage.”
Banks’ longest carry came on his first one. In the third quarter with the Bengals leading 24-17, Banks lined up behind Griffin in the pistol formation. Griffin was flanked by Alfred Morris.
After the snap, Griffin faked to Morris, then pitched to Banks. Banks beat the cornerback to the outside and raced down the sideline for a 21-yard gain.
“Anytime I get the ball in space, most guys aren’t going to catch me,” said Banks, who played out of the backfield in high school and some at Kansas State. “Speed kills.
Four plays later, Banks went in motion and again lined up behind Griffin, who faked to Evan Royster and pitched Banks. Banks mishandled the ball, but got a fortuitous bounce and gained five yards, reigniting a drive that culminated with a game-tying touchdown for the Redskins.
“We got to work on the timing,” Banks said of the bobble. “It was my fault; I was too close to him and ball snuck up on me. But I got a lucky bounce and kept going.
The introduction of Banks and the triple option also caused the Bengals to adjust their defensive alignment – which was exactly what the Redskins hoped it would do, according to offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan.
“It’s something we worked on in training camp,” Shanahan said. “It’s been in the package for the past three weeks. You kind of try to see how they’re playing their defense and when it becomes time [to use Banks]. Cincinnati played us in cover-2 the entire game. We got Banks in there and it caused problems for them, [caused] them to adjust a little bit and opened some things up.”
Banks added: “The whole game they were playing zone. Once we started doing the option, they went to one high safety. One high safety gives the offense a lot more options to do more throwing and more routes to run in the middle of the field.”
It’s unclear how much the Redskins intend to use Banks against the Buccaneers, or even if he’ll be able to play. Banks said he suffered a hip injury in practice this week. He’s listed as questionable.
Long term, however, Banks hopes to keep hearing his number called.
“I would like to do it all season,” he said. “Any time I can get the ball in my hands and help the team move the ball down the field, it feels good.”