- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 27, 2001

Quarterback Tony Banks signed with the Washington Redskins just 41 days ago. In his first regular-season game, he needed help in the huddle calling one of the plays. But now he believes he has enough command of the offense to lead the team out of its awful start.

Banks became the Redskins' starting quarterback yesterday after Jeff George was released unexpectedly. The sixth-year veteran is known for a strong arm and good mobility, and he thinks he is ready despite having limited reps with an offense that is the first in Redskins history to go without a touchdown in its first two games.

"I'm not as comfortable as I'd like to be, but I don't think any quarterback in his first year [in a system] would be, period," Banks said. "So I've just got to [prepare] double-time. And I've been doing that since I've been here, so nothing's really changing for me. I'll just get more reps in practice."

Coach Marty Schottenheimer didn't go out of his way to tout Banks yesterday. The coach, in fact, answered the first question about his new starter by reiterating why he cut George. But Schottenheimer thinks Banks can handle a full playbook, though things will be scaled back a bit this week so the offense can find some confidence.

With that in mind, Schottenheimer is setting modest goals Sunday against the Kansas City Chiefs. He's simply looking for points, having gotten solid production from running back Stephen Davis in Monday's 37-0 loss at Green Bay. Davis carried 13 times for 65 yards while the offense finished with just 137 yards, the club's lowest total since 110 yards in a loss to the Dallas Cowboys on Oct. 2, 1994.

"My goals are that we can get the offense on track," Schottenheimer said. "We got it started with the running game last week… . Some people say the team across the way [the Baltimore Ravens] went five games without scoring a touchdown and won the Super Bowl last year. That's good. There's some sense of hope there. But we've got to put the ball in the end zone."

Free agent Kent Graham replaced George on the roster. He will compete against rookie Sage Rosenfels to back up Banks, who will not be seriously challenged anytime soon, according to Schottenheimer. Graham was selected because of his 38 NFL games as a starter and the recommendation of Pittsburgh Steelers coach Bill Cowher, a friend of Schottenheimer's, who cut Graham at the end of training camp.

"I don't have a lot of familiarity with the offense," said Graham, who previously talked to the New England Patriots and Dallas about a job but didn't work out. "There's some similarity to other systems that I've been in, like the [New York] Giants when I was with Jim Fassel, but the terminology is different. There's definitely a lot more verbiage than I'm used to having. It's going to be a studying process, a learning curve for me."

Banks, meanwhile, believes he is fully caught up after being a bit unprepared in the opening 30-3 loss at San Diego. He hit just seven of 14 passes for 53 yards in 1? quarters that day, leading the Redskins' lone scoring drive, which actually lost six yards after starting in field goal range.

But Banks inspired confidence in his first preseason game, a 27-25 win over the Cleveland Browns in which he hit 12 of 15 passes for 177 yards and two touchdowns. Now that he is more familiar with an offense that involves lots of shifting and movement, he thinks he can resume that type of play. And he believes that his supporting cast, which he calls his most talented ever, doesn't have as far to go as one might expect.

"I don't think it's going to take much," Banks said. "We get in the end zone, I think that's going to turn a lot of guys' heads. That's going to create a lot of belief in guys. Right now we haven't had a lot of success. We haven't gotten into the end zone we haven't even gotten into the red zone much. I think once guys see the ball moving, and hopefully it'll be this week, guys will start believing a little more."

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