Rookie WR Leonard Hankerson working to maintain focus

Redskins rookie wide receiver Leonard Hankerson feels like it’s freshman year of college all over again.

But rather than sulk about being buried on the depth chart, the University of Miami product’s goal is to continue to work hard so when coaches do call his number, he’ll be ready.

“It’s nothing new for me,” said Hankerson, who is listed seventh on Washington’s depth chart at wide receiver, and on Sunday was on the inactive list. “Back at University of Miami, we had eight-plus guys and you can’t cut nobody in college, so that’s eight-plus guys to the receiver corps and you had to keep working to keep your job and not worry about how many other guys there are. Just control what you can control.”

The Redskins drafted Hankerson in the third round of April’s draft following a college career that saw him finish as one of the most prolific receivers in Miami history. Blessed with big hands, good size and athleticism, Hankerson has the potential to be a red-zone threat for the Redskins. But throughout the preseason, he struggled with consistency and was guilty of several drops on what would have been routine catches.

Coach Mike Shanahan elected to keep Hankerson on the 53-man roster, however, believing that he has the potential to be a legitimate threat in the NFL. It’ll just take some time, the coach says.

“Hankerson is a little bit further behind,” Shanahan said on Monday. “But it doesn’t mean he’s not going to be a great player, but he just has to keep on working and the things in practice to consistently show the coaches that he’ll be ready to play on game day. You see the ability, but you have to see the consistency.”

Hankerson said the speed of the NFL took some getting used to. But he believes he has already improved significantly since the start of training camp thanks to extra work he has put in after practices. He admits, however, that it’s hard watching.

“Of course it is. For any player, it’d be tough to be at the top and then coming to the next level, being a freshman all over again,” Hankerson said. “When I was a freshman at the University of Miami, I didn’t play a whole lot. I wanted to, and it was bugging me a whole lot. But now I’m at the next level, so I’ve got to keep focused, keep working hard in practice and keep my mind right.”

Mike Jones covers the Washington Redskins for The Washington Post. When not writing about a Redskins development of some kind – which is rare – he can be found screaming and cheering at one of his kids’ softball, baseball, soccer or basketball games.



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