Brandon Banks’ speed weighed against usefulness as receiver for Redskins

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Washington Redskins wide receiver Brandon Banks’ 91-yard punt return for a touchdown against the Chicago Bears was a necessary reminder of his explosiveness in the return game.

He didn’t score a touchdown in 16 games last season, as the new advanced kickoff location limited his opportunities, so it was fair to wonder whether he still had the ability. Seeing is believing.

What that means for his roster chances, though, isn’t as clear. The competition for the fifth — and possibly sixth or seventh — receiver spot is intense. Aldrick Robinson had 104 receiving yards Saturday, including a 49-yard catch-and-run for a touchdown that has made a significant impression on coach Mike Shanahan.

Shanahan hedged this week when asked about how Banks’ touchdown helps him.

“When a guy has game-breaking potential and ability, which he has shown, it is tough not to keep a guy like that,” Shanahan said. “But we have a lot of competition and that is what you want to have. Who else can return punts? Who else can play wide receiver? That is what you have to evaluate and sometimes you let some good football players go.”

Banks shrugged off his touchdown after the game. He actually seemed glum after not taking any snaps at receiver following an unimpressive stint as a receiver against Buffalo.

Returning kicks “is what I do best, I think, but I still got to work on wide receiver right now,” Banks said. “Everybody knows I’ve got to make the team at wide receiver, so that’s what I’m focused on.”

Hightower, Helu update

Mike Shanahan is not certain whether running backs Tim Hightower and Roy Helu Jr. will be healthy enough to play against the New Orleans Saints on Sept. 9.

Hightower is working back from the left knee ACL reconstruction surgery he had nine months ago. Helu is fighting tendinitis in both Achilles.

“Neither one could play right now,” Shanahan said when asked about both of their availability for Saturday’s preseason game against Indianapolis.

“They could be fine by the first game,” he said. “We’ll keep our fingers crossed.”

Wednesday’s practice was the first this summer in which Hightower experienced contact while playing with the first-, second-, or third-team offense.

“He’s made some strides, but it’s really hard to tell until he goes full speed,” Shanahan said. “Once you put the pads on it’s different than going in shorts. I think tomorrow will be a good indication of how he feels.”

Inside linebacker London Fletcher (undisclosed ailment) will play Saturday barring a setback.

Outside linebacker Brian Orakpo (left pectoral) told reporters he expects to play in the season opener. Strong safety Brandon Meriweather (left knee) said he hopes to do the same. Meriweather gave little away, proudly demonstrating what he learned in New England about keeping injury information a secret.

Anatomy of a fumble

Multiple breakdowns by the Redskins resulted in quarterback Robert Griffin III’s sack and fumble in the second quarter against Chicago.

Rookie running back Alfred Morris failed to pick up a safety blitz on the left. Tight end Chris Cooley also missed his read on the right and left tight end Fred Davis alone against Israel Idonije. Cooley kicked out a step, hesitated and didn’t block anyone

Cooley described what happened:

“It’s a pass protection where I’m responsible for all the secondary,” he said. “I should have saw earlier that the corner and safety weren’t coming. I stepped out to the corner. I was responsible for the corner. I wanted to ensure — I should have just sat tight with Fred. Fred actually did a pretty good job on the block.

“We talked about the corner possibly coming off the edge. In practice, I had a look where the same [thing] happened, and I turned to help [Fred] and the guy came. No real excuses. I could have helped Fred.”

Time change

Kickoff for the Redskins‘ preseason finale against Tampa Bay on Aug. 29 has been moved to 7 p.m. from 7:30.

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