Hankerson – drafted in the third round out of Miami – spent the first five games on the inactive list, and Paul – a fifth-round pick out of Nebraska – played primarily on special teams.
But with Santana Moss now sidelined for five to seven weeks with a broken left hand, the Redskins will count on both rookies to make contributions in an offense that already struggled in the play-making and scoring departments.
Paul is competing with second-year pro Anthony Armstrong for the starting spot that Moss previously had held, while Hankerson – who got in last week’s game for one play – could see his activity increase as well.
“All I can do is go out there and play the role I’ve been given. If something special happens out of it, that means I’m doing my job, right?” said the 6-foot-1, 224-pound Paul, who last week recorded two catches for 25 yards. “…Just learning from [Moss], I’m ready to be put in this position. Hopefully I can come through during the game.”
Hankerson spent the first six weeks of the season working to pick up the offense and make up for lost time since the lockout prevented the team from holding OTAs.
“It was tough coming in, being on top in college and then coming in here, being all the way down to the bottom,” Hankerson said. “Not getting the same amount routes every day and stuff like that, not playing the game. It was tough. … I’ve learned a whole lot.”
Coach Mike Shanahan said in the last couple of weeks of practice, the 6-foot-2, 205-pound Hankerson has “made some unbelievable plays,” and so he received his first opportunity on Sunday.
That debut was less than memorable as Hankerson and quarterback John Beck had a miscommunication on the one pass that came his way, and Carolina’s Chris Gamble picked it off.
But Hankerson is eager to redeem himself.
“I look forward to it a whole lot,” he said. “Just keep doing what I’ve been doing the last couple of weeks, working out, getting better, meeting with the coaches, doing what I’ve got to do and just keep putting in work.”