A crowd of reporters and cameramen gathered around Brandon Banks inside the Washington Redskins' locker room Wednesday night. A 47-yard catch and a 43-yard run have a way of attracting attention to a player, especially when jobs are at stake like they were in the Redskins' 30-3 victory over Tampa Bay in the preseason finale.
Just a few feet to Banks' right, Dezmon Briscoe might as well have been on another planet. He sat by himself and quietly pulled on his socks. Around him lingered an aura of disappointment. Nearby, the lights lit up Banks in his black t-shirt that read: "NO PHOTOS PLEASE."
"I got an opportunity and made the best of it," Banks said through a half-smile.
Briscoe shared the notion but with a different tone.
"It's a game of opportunities," his said. "I got targeted once, caught one pass."
There were similar contrasts throughout Washington's victory. As players filed out of the locker room, though, and into some uncertain futures, the overriding emotion was hope. That was especially true among a group of wide receivers whose position battle was the Redskins' most competitive this summer.
"It's been crazy, honestly," Anthony Armstrong said. "It's just talent from top to the bottom. Everybody can play. It's going to make difficult decisions. I feel like whoever doesn't make the roster here will most definitely be on somebody else's team."
Almost every first stringer on both teams sat out the game. The Redskins backups led 23-0 before Tampa Bay scored. They outgained the Buccaneers 459 yards to 160 and had five sacks.
Running back Roy Helu Jr. (Achilles tendinitis) rushed for 90 yards and two touchdowns in his return from a two-game absence. Rookie quarterback Kirk Cousins was 15-of-27 passing for 222 yards and an interception. New kicker Billy Cundiff made 3 of 4 field goals, missing his longest attempt from 46 yards.
The real intrigue was in the various roster battles. Inside linebacker Bryan Kehl had a sack, a tackle for loss and an interception. He undercut a throw over the middle to make some measure of amends for dropping a potentially game-winning interception against Chicago on Aug. 18.
"He helped himself, that's for sure," coach Mike Shanahan said.
Banks also made a strong closing argument. He showcased his elite speed on an end-around run and long completion from Cousins. On the downside, he dropped a pass near the goal line when he was hit from behind as the ball arrived.
Shanahan said before training camp that Banks had to make the team as a receiver. After a poor showing in the preseason opener against Buffalo, his final impression was much stronger."
"It felt good just to finally catch a ball, just showing that … I'm capable to go deep as a wide receiver," said Banks, who returned five punts for 66 yards. "I think I put enough on film that I can still have a job somewhere. If not here, just hopefully somewhere else."
Armstrong stood out on two catches for 61 yards, including a 46-yarder down the left sideline. On both he beat press coverage, something coaches said was a shortcoming of his last season.
"Hopefully it shines enough in coaches' minds that they want to keep me around," Armstrong said.
Briscoe, on the other hand, did not finish the preseason how he hoped. He expected to play on several special teams units — something he counted on to increase his value — but he never did.
"Not one snap," Briscoe lamented. He did have one catch for 17 yards, and he finished the preseason as the team leader in touchdown catches with two.
"I'm not really too confident about if I'm going to make it or not," he said. "My offensive performance was pretty good this preseason, but I didn't play any special teams. Just got to wait and see what happens."
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