Maturing Banks leads offense

Tony Banks refuses to feel comfortable in Washington. He's felt that before and been burned. But he's starting to reach a comfort level in the Redskins' offense. And it shows. In the past five quarters, plus a few minutes of overtime, Banks has blossomed.

''We're becoming more familiar with the things Tony is best suited to do,'' Redskins coach Marty Schottenheimer said. ''We can sit and talk about things on the blackboard, that's easy. But it's in the heat of battle. Tony has made great strides and he's very bright and he's worked at it. The one thing I have to caution him about is that he gets frustrated when he doesn't do it perfectly.''

But Banks did a lot of things near perfectly in Sunday's 35-21 win over New York. He completed 11 of 19 passes for 190 yards and two touchdowns.

He threw a 76-yard touchdown pass to Michael Westbrook and a 12-yard scoring strike to Rod Gardner.

However, another play was equally impressive. On a third and 18 from his own 14, with Washington leading by six in the fourth quarter, Banks sprinted to his left, squared his body and delivered a perfect toss to receiver Kevin Lockett for a 21-yard gain.

That's a play Washington would not have run earlier this season. And it's no coincidence that the offense has started to roll with his understanding of the scheme.

In Banks' first two starts, he posted one-game quarterback ratings of 50.8 and 30.4 against the Chiefs and Giants, respectively. In his last three starts, Banks' one-game ratings are 97.5, 94.6 and 127.1.

''When I've got confidence in my line protecting for me, whatever blitz the defense comes with, they'll work it out,'' Banks said, ''and block it for me and I'll push the ball up the field. As a quarterback, you play more fearless.''

But don't expect Banks to start shopping for a new house in the area. Not after going from Baltimore to Dallas to here within eight months.

''I don't let myself get too comfortable,'' Banks said. ''I've been comfortable in the past before. My career has caused me to be bitter in some areas. I used to be close to all my head coaches and offensive coordinators. I'm a people person I guess. I've tried to pull myself away a little bit because it tends to hurt a little more when you're close to people in an organization and then have to find another job.''

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