Leonard Hankerson’s injury is significant, so Redskins could turn back to Josh Morgan

Jonathan Newton/The Washington Post - The knee injury to Leonard Hankerson is potentially season-ending, and puts Josh Morgan, inactive on Sunday, back in the mix at wide receiver.

The Washington Redskins received discouraging news Monday on wide receiver Leonard Hankerson’s knee injury, which could lead Coach Mike Shanahan to make at least one awkward lineup decision.

Shanahan said Hankerson injured the lateral collateral ligament in his left knee during Sunday’s loss at Philadelphia, and MRI exam results were positive, showing damage to the ligament. The coach said it would be unknown for several days whether the injury would require surgery, which would end Hankerson’s season.

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Regardless, it’s the latest disappointment for a team that has mostly stayed healthy this season, despite a 3-7 record, and a blow to a passing game that gained 26 yards in the first half Sunday against the Eagles. Not only that, but rookie tight end Jordan Reed, one of quarterback Robert Griffin III’s most dependable targets this season, sustained a concussion against the Eagles and will be monitored this week as part of the NFL’s normal post-concussion protocol. It won’t be known until later this week if Reed can resume practicing this week or play next Monday night against the San Francisco 49ers.

If Hankerson and Reed are unable to play, Shanahan would likely have to turn back to wide receiver Josh Morgan and tight end Fred Davis, a pair of players who have been phased out of the lineup.

Reed has shown promise throughout the season as a big and athletic target, keeping Davis on the sideline. Davis has appeared in only four games, starting two, and has three catches for 25 yards.

Redskins offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan said last week that Hankerson has simply outplayed Morgan, a Washington native who signed a free-agent deal with his hometown team last year. Morgan’s reduced role hit its lowest point Sunday in Philadelphia after Shanahan deactivated the 28-year-old in favor of Nick Williams, a punt returner who was promoted last week from the team’s practice squad.

Morgan sat in the visitors locker room after the loss and appeared dazed, later responding to a Post reporter’s interview request by saying: “Coach said I can’t play football, and I can’t talk.”

On Monday, Shanahan seemed confused by Morgan’s reaction, saying he explained to the wide receiver why he was inactive Sunday — and what the coach expects for Morgan to resume his role on special teams and in the receiver rotation.

“It was a little bit unusual to hear that,” Shanahan said after a chuckle. “. . . I’ve got a lot of belief in Josh Morgan. We did make the switch for Nick Williams because I wanted to take a look at him as a punt returner.

“I do have a lot of confidence in Josh, that he’ll come back strong and help us this week as a wide receiver, but I explained to him what he needs to do in both special teams and at wide receiver, to get to the level that I think he can get to. Because he does have the ability to be a Pro Bowl player, and I want to get that out of him.”

Morgan spoke out last week about his role reduction in the Redskins offense, saying he had no idea why he has only 11 catches for 124 yards through nine games.

“I think I’ve been doing my job,” Morgan told reporters last week. “I know I’ve been doing my job. I know I didn’t do anything to lose my job. So you have to really ask the coaches. I can’t control nothing. I can just go out there and do my job.”

Shanahan said the wide receiver’s comments had nothing to do with the decision to deactivate him Sunday.

Washington, which needed good news after a disappointing loss in Philadelphia, received some when MRI exams were negative on knee injuries suffered by defensive end Stephen Bowen and cornerback E.J. Biggers, Shanahan said. The coach added that both players were sore, but neither is expected to miss significant time.

 
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