The NFL world, the Washington Redskins in particular, took notice when Redskins’ head coach Mike Shanahan talked about the roster status of certain players. Shanahan talked about player evaluations after Washington’s disappointing 21-13 week nine loss to the Carolina Panthers. He put his team on notice that some players could be replaced with younger, hungrier players if their performance didn’t improve.
Washington wide receiver/kick returner Brandon Banks may be the first casualty. He was inactive for the Redskins’ week 14 game against the Baltimore Ravens. Banks’ punt return duties were given to rookie cornerback Richard Crawford, who was drafted in the sixth round of the 2012 NFL draft. Despite being inactive for the previous five games, Shanahan gave Crawford the opportunity to return punts for the first time in an NFL regular season game.
Crawford didn’t disappoint, averaging 33 yards on three returns. His biggest contribution was his 64 yard burst in overtime against the Ravens. The great return by the unheralded rookie set the stage for Washington placekicker Kai Forbath to boot the game winning field goal. The victory extended the Redskins’ winning streak to four games, their longest in four years.
No one will confuse Crawford with the Chicago Bears’ Devin Hester, who is considered one of the greatest punt returners of all time. However, Crawford seized the opportunity bestowed upon him, and made the best of it. For the Redskins to earn a playoff berth, players like Crawford must continue to make plays when the opportunity arises. Plays like Crawford’s last punt return could be the turning point of the season if Washington is able to make the playoffs. Whether or not they make the playoffs remains to be seen. But for now, Crawford’s performance against the Ravens places him in the Redskins’ spotlight.