Washington Redskins Coach Mike Shanahan said rookie wide receiver Leonard Hankerson will remain in the starting lineup for a second straight week after recording four catches for 34 yards Sunday.
In the last three weeks, Hankerson has risen quickly. After spending the first five games on the inactive list, he has improved his play in practices and three weeks ago, he suited up for the first time all season.
He didn’t record a catch that day. Instead, he and quarterback John Beck miscommunicated on the one pass route Hankerson ran, and the throw was intercepted. Last week against Buffalo, Hankerson recorded one catch for 23 yards and was overthrown deep while going for the end zone.
Sunday, Hankerson played 63 of the 64 offensive snaps against the 49ers, and Shanahan said he believes that the University of Miami product has a chance to become an elite receiver.
Speaking of Hankerson’s progress, Shanahan said, “We’ve talked about guys that get the opportunity to start over guys that stay in that position for a length of timel. You’ve got to do it on the field and do it in practice. There’s a lot of competition at the wide receiver position. The week before we let Niles [Paul] take a shot at it, we let [Anthony] Armstrong take a shot at it. But Hankerson has been pretty consistent. We wanted to give him the opportunity to start the game. He showed starting the game that he deserves to be the starter next week.”
Hankerson has overtaken second-year pro Anthony Armstrong, who last season ranked second on the team in receiving but for the second straight week went without a catch. This season, Armstrong has only five receptions for 47 yards and a touchdown.
Armstrong started against Buffalo, but played only eight snaps against San Francisco although both Mike and Kyle Shanahan, the team’s offensive coordinator, said last week that they needed to get him more opportunities.
After the game, Armstrong said all the right things when asked about his inconsistent role with the team.
“If it’s confusing or not, I really can’t say. I just have to capitalize on the opportunities I do get, be it one, two, three or 10,” Armstrong said. “I don’t know when those opportunities come, but when they do, I just have to capitalize.”
When asked about the change in direction on Monday, Shanahan said Armstrong needs improvement in one crucial aspect.
“Anthony hasn’t been as consistent as I would like, getting off bump coverage,” Shanahan said. “That’s one of the areas that he has to improve at to be a starter on our football team and get more playing time. He knows that as well as anybody, and he’s been getting better. But to get more time, you’ve got to beat that bump coverage. If you can’t beat that bump coverage in the National Football League, you start coaching.”