- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 1, 2001

Running back Stephen Davis' return to the NFC's top producers ranks has led the Washington Redskins' resurgence. Now it may be quarterback Tony Banks' turn to lead against the Seattle Seahawks Sunday.

Davis' 305 yards in the past three games have sparked two consecutive victories following a one-point loss. Trailing only New Orleans' Ricky Williams (557 yards) by 33 yards among NFC rushers, Davis once again is the Redskins' offensive go-to guy after the team barely used him the opening month of the season.

Now the Redskins must decide whether to test the Seahawks' fifth-ranked run defense or 16th-rated secondary. Will Washington be able to manhandle Seattle's standout defensive line to create room for Davis?

Banks has steadily improved since replacing Jeff George Sept. 30. The offense has traded short-yardage, ball-control passes for occasional downfield throws. The Redskins often field four potential targets. Banks' pass rating has reached 73.1 with five touchdowns and four interceptions after a poor start.

The Redskins only use one-third of their offense with Banks as quarterback because his August signing precluded building chemistry with the team. In return, Banks asked teammates to be patient while he learned the system. Now he has become a locker room leader and one of the team's more popular players.

"I think his play has caught up to him," offensive tackle Chris Samuels said. "I think lot of guys would have come in tucked under a shell, but he stuck his chest out and said, 'I'm going to do this.'"

Said Davis: "He's been thrown in the fight, but that's what professionals are for."

Coach Marty Schottenheimer quashed the notion that Banks was told not to lose games like the Baltimore Ravens did to him last year. The Ravens were content to let their defense put them on the road to winning the Super Bowl. Banks was benched at midseason after the team didn't score a touchdown in five straight games. However, he did earn AFC Offensive Player of the Week honors for a team-record five touchdown passes against Jacksonville.

"We have never once approached him on the basis of 'don't hurt our team,'" Schottenheimer said. "You can't play that way. To even suggest that to a player would put a negative thought in his mind. A sense of confidence is so important in anything you do."

Now the Redskins must decide whether they have confidence in Banks to alter the offense and rely less on Davis. It's not a simple choice, because Davis' success often sets up the pass. However, the offensive line has greatly improved in recent weeks to give Banks more time.

Certainly, the Redskins would prefer Banks throw fewer than 20 times, as he did while going 11 of 19 for 190 yards and two touchdowns in Sunday's 35-21 victory over the New York Giants.

However, he also completed 17 of 30 for 346 yards and one touchdown in the 17-14 victory over Carolina on Oct. 21.

Banks seems unconcerned over his possible increased role. After two wins, he believes Redskins fans are just catching up to his self-confidence.

"It don't take much to get people to change their opinion," Banks said. "Success has a way of changing people's minds."

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