NFL’s Smallest Player Presents Big Challenge For Bengals
On Monday of each week, I break out my multicolored pens and begin putting together what play-by-play announcers call a spotting board. In my case, it’s a chart of every player on both teams in numerical order that includes basic information like their height, weight, and age, as well as other nuggets that I might be able to work into the broadcast. Here’s a look at a portion of last week’s chart for the Cleveland Browns.
This week when I started working on my board for the Washington Redskins, I did a double-take at something I had never seen before on an NFL roster: A player who weighs 153 pounds.
That would be Redskins kickoff and punt returner Brandon Banks who – like Andrew Hawkins — is listed at 5’7”, but is nearly 30 pounds lighter than the Bengals receiver.
“I definitely have a little more bulk than he does,” Hawkins told me. “He’s actually a friend of mine and I’ve known him for a long time. I actually hosted him on his visit to the University of Toledo. Small world.”
Emphasis on small.
Banks is in his third year with the Redskins after playing college football at Kansas State where his teammates included Bengals practice squad linebacker Emmanuel Lamur.
“My first impression was, ‘Wow – he’s small.’” said Lamur. “But to play this game takes heart and that describes him. Size really doesn’t matter. He gave us a big return every time we needed it. He was a big playmaker for us and it was great being his teammate.”
“After the (2010) combine, we were texting back and forth and he told me that he weighed in at 149 pounds,” said Hawkins. “Imagine that – 149 and he’s not a kicker. But the guy can play man.”
As a rookie, the diminutive Banks had a 96-yard kick return touchdown against Detroit (you can see it here). The Bengals were able to keep Cleveland’s Josh Cribbs in check in the return game last week, but Banks presents a different challenge this Sunday.
“He’s the fastest guy on the field,” said Bengals special teams coordinator Darrin Simmons. “It’s going to be very important for us to be sound on our field lanes this week. This guy can get outside of you in a heartbeat and you won’t even know it until he’s already gone. He’s not big, so we have to be physical and get him on the ground. It’s a big change trying to tackle him after trying to tackle somebody like Cribbs. We have to keep him contained.”
The 215-pound Cribbs is known for his ability to break tackles. In the case of Banks…
“You have to catch him first,” said Lamur.
NFL Films analyst Greg Cosell created a bit of a firestorm in Cincinnati last May when he told Yahoo Sports that there were still questions about Andy Dalton’s long-term potential, even after an outstanding rookie season.
“I can tell you that those in the Bengals organization have a few doubts as to what his true upside is,” Cosell said at the time. “Because at the end of the day, while I think Dalton is a good player, I think — not I think, I know — that he’s got some arm strength limitations.”
Cosell joined Dave Lapham and me on “Bengals Game Plan” this week, and I asked him for his opinion on Dalton’s upside.
“When you have some limitations, they can be compensated for if you do other things really well.,” said Cosell. “I think there are two things that Andy Dalton does really well – and I had a chance to study him again this summer for the “Jaws Quarterback Countdown Series” that I did with Ron Jaworski for ESPN. I think Dalton has tremendous anticipation. The more film that you watch, the more that you see him make throws before receivers break. And number two, I would say that he has excellent ball location which I think is a better word than accuracy. He puts balls in exactly the right spots between people, and gives receivers a chance to run after the catch. I think you can compensate for not having a gun. Andy Dalton does not have a gun. He doesn’t have a weak arm, but he doesn’t have a gun. I think he can make up for that and has up to this point, and I think that he’s going to be a very good player.”
As for this week’s game against the Redskins, Cosell says that Dalton’s ability to read defenses will be crucial.
“I think the loss of Brian Orakpo is critical for the Redskins,” said Cosell. “(Defensive coordinator) Jim Haslett likes to blitz and I think you’ll see a lot of blitz this weekend because I think that he’ll feel that he can double A.J. Green and live with one-on-one coverage in the other matchups.”
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