Wideouts vying for spot on the Redskins' roster

ASHBURN -- A year ago the punt return would have served as a reminder of Brandon Banks' ability. And a roster spot would have been guaranteed.

Life is different now. Three days after his 91-yard punt return for a score, Banks could only think of one thing: his play at receiver.

"I'm worried about making a play on offense," he said. "Of course I want to make a play anytime I touch the ball, but right now I'm focusing on offense."

- John Keim

» Fullback Darrel Young said he was feeling better, but coach Mike Shanahan said he was not going to play vs. Indianapolis on Saturday. Young has not played this preseason because of his injured left hamstring on July 30. Young tested it in practice Monday, leaving him optimistic. "I felt great, that's the first time I ran and didn't feel anything," he said. "I had this setback before so I know where I am and how to take things and how to progress. I felt good about what I did [Monday]. I'll go a little more today and a lot more tomorrow."
» Right guard Chris Chester returned to practice and is expected to play Saturday vs. Indianapolis. Chester missed the first two preseason games because of a sprained left ankle.
» Running back Roy Helu said it's too early to know if he'll be ready to play Saturday. But he hasn't practiced in more than a week because of soreness in both Achilles tendons. He said his left Achilles was tight and then became painful while the right one is just tight. When he runs, Helu said, "it's like your body wants to run but the Achilles just won't happen."
Running back Tim Hightower missed practice to attend his grandfather's funeral.

That's because other receivers are making plays, giving the Redskins enough depth that they no longer want to carry just a returner. And that has turned the competition for the final receiver spots into one of the most interesting on the Redskins' roster.

As of now the only locks appear to be Pierre Garcon, Santana Moss, Leonard Hankerson and Josh Morgan. That leaves Banks, Aldrick Robinson, Anthony Armstrong, Terrence Austin and Dezmon Briscoe fighting for two or three spots. Robinson appears to be in the best shape of this group after his six-catch, 104-yard performance Saturday vs. Chicago. His 49-yard catch and run still resonated with coach Mike Shanahan on Tuesday.

"You could see the explosion and the speed," Shanahan said. "[His route running] was very average last year and he had to learn to be a pro, and he's gotten better. It has really helped him, and you can see the rewards. That one play he made last week was really impressive."

Armstrong spent the past two years on the roster, catching 44 passes in 2010 and only seven a year later. He's played one snap in the first two preseason games -- Armstrong said he snuck in for one play Saturday -- because of a sprained right shoulder.

"I'm extremely eager," Armstrong said. "Sitting back and watching, that sucks. ... You see them making plays and you want to have fun, too."

He wants to have more than fun; he wants to keep a roster spot. The coaches like Armstrong because of his speed and special teams ability. But one good year plus one bad year equals uncertainty.

"Hopefully there was enough good play in 2010 that weighs heavily on their mind that they say, 'he can get back to this level of play,'?" Armstrong said.

Banks flopped in his first game at receiver, catching two of the nine passes thrown his way. His size was an issue as a receiver (a defensive back crashed into him jarring one ball loose) and blocker (he was game but was crunched).

"I hope I get targeted another nine times so I can make the best of it this time," he said.

The 6-foot-2, 210-pound Briscoe offers something the others in his situation don't: size. He plays physical, which he showed vs. Chicago (though he failed to gain position on one slant).

Austin has one catch in two preseason games but threw a key block that helped spring Banks. Like Banks, he's hoping for a third year with Washington. He needs to showcase his versatility.

"My outlet is special teams," Austin said. "I have to be able to make plays on special teams. When I first got here, I was a receiver and return man. I didn't know anything about covering kicks. I didn't tackle for a living. But I had to learn that. ... But I'm used to it. It's been that way since I got here. This is all I know."