Redskins’ Leonard Hankerson aims to turn corner in third season

(Toni L. Sandys/The Washington Post)

(Toni L. Sandys/The Washington Post)

Washington Redskins third-year wide receiver Leonard Hankerson expressed encouragement over his start to the preseason, and believes that he may have finally turned the corner after two inconsistent NFL seasons.

Hankerson had two catches for 26 yards and a touchdown in the Redskins’ win over the Pittsburgh Steelers on Monday night. Combined with his performance in the preseason opener, Hankerson has six catches on eight targets for 64 yards and two touchdowns, which leads the team.

“I’m just trying to be consistent, take it a game at a time and play at a high level,” said the 6-foot-2, 211-pound Hankerson, who is competing with Josh Morgan for the starting receiver spot opposite Pierre Garcon.

Wide receivers coach Mike McDaniel names consistency as the biggest thing Hankerson needed to work on to establish himself as a quality NFL receiver. Hankerson has good size, speed and versatility. But his previous struggles with drops have minimized his impact.

Hankerson has had some impressive practices but reverted to his old form at times. In games, however, Hankerson has performed well. He opened the Steelers game with a 16-yard catch, but couldn’t secure the ball on his next target. Hankerson rebounded with a 10-yard touchdown pass from Rex Grossman.

Asked what happened on the incompletion, where the ball went off Hankerson’s hands, the receiver grinned and said: “What drop? I don’t even remember it. That’s how I have to think.”

Teammates and coaches have observed greater confidence in Hankerson since  offseason practices began. It marked the first full and healthy offseason for Hankerson, who was robbed of an offseason program as a rookie because of the NFL lockout, and then he spent the 2012 spring and summer rehabbing from hip surgery.

“I just think having those first two seasons and the injury behind him, and now being fully healthy, he was really able to go out and just play, and really work on getting better,” Grossman said. “He can be really good. He’s got great size, he’s fast, he’s our best route-runner. I see him getting better and better.”

Hankerson believes he can become a key contributor, but his game plan is simple.

“I just have to concentrate, work hard, take it play by play,” Hankerson said.

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