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Banks' position: Playmaker

Banks' position: Playmaker

During the offseason, Coach Mike Shanahan explained to Brandon Banks that he had to earn a spot on the Redskins as wide receiver who could also return punts and kicks, not the other way around.After four preseason games, though, Banks claimed one of the 53 jobs at a position not listed on the roster: Playmaker.In three exhibition contests, Banks only made three receptions for 54 yards 47 of those came on a single catch and he struggled in Buffalo when he was targeted nine times.But the diminutive speedster managed to leave his mark on the field in other ways. So Shanahan elected to keep seven wide receivers in order to accommodate Banks and his game-breaking potential.He can make plays, Shanahan said. "We ran him around on a reverse against the Buccaneers and not many people can make a cornerback miss like that and get a 43 yard game.Hes a playmaker, the coach added. Hes proved that since hes been here, and were going to find ways to get him the football.Banks ranked second in the NFL among punt returners (who attempted more than one) during the preseason, averaging 23.0 yards on seven opportunities. That average included a punt 91-yard return for a touchdown against the Bears.If a guys going to make your football team, hes going to make your football team because hes a playmaker, Shanahan said. And like I said, if hes a wide receiver and hes catching a bubble screen or a running a reverse, hes got a chance to make plays.So, the coach continued, he made our football team because hes a football player, and I think he can add to winning games for us in the future."

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Week 7 NFC East Update: As Giants derail rest of division rebounds

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USA Today Sports

Week 7 NFC East Update: As Giants derail rest of division rebounds

In Week 5, every NFC East team suffered an embarrassing defeat. In Week 6, every NFC East team rebounded, except for the New York Giants.

The Redskins rebounded from their ugly Week 5 loss in New Orleans with a home win over a strong Carolina team. Dallas logged the division's best win, stomping Jacksonville 40-7, while the Eagles took no mercy on the Giants, beating them 34-13.

Now, three teams sit at the top with three wins, while the Giants lag quite far behind in the basement. Here's the update:

Washington Redskins (3-2)

Only by virtue of an early bye week do the Redskins rank slightly ahead of the Eagles and Cowboys, thanks to a .600 winning percentage. This week will change that, as the Redskins play their first NFC East division game when they host the Cowboys on Sunday afternoon. Defensively, Washington should match up well with Dallas, a run-first team that is challenged in the vertical pass game. But the Redskins have plenty to deal with internally, including major injuries at WR as well as a four-game losing streak to their rival. The Redskins haven't beaten the Cowboys at home since 2012. 

Up next: Oct. 21st vs Dallas (4:25 p.m.)

Dallas Cowboys (3-3)

Coming off their most impressive win of the season, Dallas will march into Washington on Sunday full of confidence and defensive swagger. The Cowboys defense held the Jaguars to only 204 total yards last Sunday and posted three sacks with two turnovers. The strength of the Dallas defense comes up front, with a menacing defensive line that confuses their offensive counterparts with significant movement and stunts at the snap of the ball. Now, all of that said, the Cowboys posted their standout defensive numbers against Blake Bortles and a bad Jaguars offense that was playing without injured running back Leonard Fournette. The Cowboys defense is good, but maybe not quite as good as they looked against Jacksonville. It's also a good time to point out that on the 2018 season, Dallas is 3-0 at home, and 0-3 on the road.

Up next: Oct. 21st @ Washington (4:25 p.m.)

Philadelphia Eagles (3-3)

Don't look now but the defending Super Bowl champs might be getting their act together. The Eagles scored more than 30 points for the first time this year in a demolition of the Giants last Thursday night, and snapped a two-game losing streak. Carson Wentz threw for 278 yards and three touchdowns, his best performance since coming back from knee surgery. Defensively, the Eagles sacked Eli Manning four times, but rookie sensation RB Saquon Barkley was able to gash Philly on the ground. The Panthers will present a very strong run game this Sunday and if Philly is all the way back, they need their stout run defense from 2017 to reappear. 

Up next: Oct. 21st vs Carolina

New York Giants (1-5)

Woof. Not much to celebrate in the Big Apple. It's become very obvious that Eli Manning is no longer a starting caliber QB, but the Giants have no other real options. And for all the complaints about Eli and the Giants offensive line, the defense hasn't been very good either. New York has a -45 point differential on the year. The Giants need to rebuild their offense around Saquon Barkley, who has looked outstanding, and hope Eli can hit Odell Beckham on play action. Barkley must get more carries for the Giants; that's the only way to salvage an already broken season.

Up next: Oct. 22nd @ Atlanta (8:15 p.m.)

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Need to Know: Tandler’s Take—Dramatic improvement to Redskins rushing defense

Need to Know: Tandler’s Take—Dramatic improvement to Redskins rushing defense

Here is what you need to know on this Tuesday, October 16, five days before the Washington Redskins host the Dallas Cowboys.

Talking Points

A better 3-2

For the third straight year, the Redskins are 3-2 after five games. As you know, they did not make the playoffs after either of the last two seasons. But they are in better shape in the standings now than they were in 2016 or 2017. Last year they were in second place in the division, a game and a half behind the 5-1 Eagles. They were worse off two years ago as they were in third place behind the 3-1 Eagles and the Cowboys, who were 4-1. 

It’s still very early, but it’s better to be in first place nearly a third of the way into the season than it is to be in second or third place and being in a position where you have to chase one or two teams. 

Take it away

The Redskins had three takeaways against the Panthers—the fumble recovery on the punt, Josh Norman’s interception, and the fumble forced by Norman and recovered by Mason Foster. They did not give the ball away. The last time they got at least three takeaways without giving the ball up was on Christmas Eve, 2016 in Chicago. Perhaps not coincidentally, that is the last game in which Norman had an interception until Sunday. 

After being either even or in the positive in takeaway ratio in four of their five games this year, the Redskins are now tied for fourth in the NFL with a plus-four turnover margin. If they can stay on the even or plus side from week to week they will have a very good chance at being successful. 

Rushing D much improved

After finishing 32nd in the NFL in rushing yards allowed in 2017, the Redskins are currently sixth, giving up an average of 90.2 yards per game. The improvement has come even though they have faced premiere running backs David Johnson, Alvin Kamara, Mark Ingram, and Christian McCaffrey. They have allowed no more than 104 yards on the ground in any of their five games. Last year's opponents ran for 127 yards or more 10 times. Their defense will be tested on Sunday against the Cowboys, who average 147 rushing yards per game on the ground, second in the NFL. 

Looking in the mirror

When the Redskins take a look at the Cowboys they might feel like they are watching themselves. Both teams run the ball well, although Ezekiel Elliott is more consistent than Adrian Peterson. Alex Smith has better passing stats than Dak Prescott but both teams are in the bottom third of the league in passing yards. The defenses on both teams are strong. Washington is sixth in yardage allowed per game and the Cowboys are fifth. 

And both teams have started off the season alternating wins and losses. Dallas started with a loss to the Panthers then beat the Giants, lost to the Seahawks, won over the Lions, suffered an OT loss to the Texans and then thumped the Jaguars. It will be an interesting match up on Sunday.

The agenda

Today: Off day, no media availability

Upcoming: Cowboys @ Redskins 5; Redskins @ Giants 12; Redskins @ Eagles 48

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