Nearly every time
"He can't do it alone,"
A year ago, Banks was all but alone as a playmaker for the Redskins, and his returns of kicks and punts were the one reason to stop and pay attention. This season has been different. Banks' longest punt returns of the year came Sunday in a 27-24 overtime loss to the
"It's frustrating because I think every time I can bring one back," Banks said. "I just got to be patient and keep trying."
Banks' struggles have been a focus for fans during the Redskins' six-game losing streak. He is joined on special teams by kicker
Asked whether Gano is under pressure to keep his job in this Sunday's game at Seattle, coach
"I ain't talking about Graham," Smith said. "We're done with that."
Smith would rather talk about the contributions his units are making. The Redskins rank first in the
"We've been good on that every year I've been here," special teams captain
The change has come on the punting unit, where
Rocca, who's "as good as I've ever been around," Shanahan said, has provided stability.
"His bad punts are what we used to consider good punts here," Smith said.
Rocca hasn't boomed his kicks — his average of 45.5 yards ranks 18th in the league — but he is exceptional at knowing situations and tailoring his punts to them. He has placed 20 of his 44 punts inside the 20-yard line, the second-highest total in the league. And because he gets good hang time, usually 4.8 or 4.9 seconds, the Redskins' punt coverage unit can get downfield and pin returners. The unit's net average of 41.3 yards ranks fourth in the league.
For Banks, his 55-yard punt return against Dallas was the longest of his career, and he added a 32-yarder in the same game. Before that, he was averaging just nine yards a return — down 2.3 yards from his performance a year ago. Perhaps forcing things a bit, he had started fumbling kicks.
But opponents know Banks' capabilities. Last year, he returned a kickoff 96 yards for a touchdown and had two others called back because of penalties. An undrafted wide receiver out of Kansas State, he became Washington's most exciting player. The surprise element is gone now.
"They'll game-plan you better," Alexander said. "Guys have come up and said, 'We don't even care about the distance. We're going to kick it higher and then make him fair-catch it.'"
Given the Redskins' sputtering offense and a defense that finds itself under inordinate pressure to offset that, doing nothing isn't going to work.