RICHMOND — They made plays in the spring and looked sharper than a year ago. Perhaps it was a sign that Leonard Hankerson and Aldrick Robinson were ready to do more.
But the problems for both wide receivers were on display Saturday and it’s what the coaches will point out to them, probably over and over, if they want bigger roles in the Redskins‘ offense.
Robinson dropped at least three passes outright and had another stripped from him after a slight bobble. Hankerson blew past his man in a one-on-one drill and was all alone in the end zone. But a perfect pass from Robert Griffin III slid from his grasp.
When it comes to both players, the first thing Coach Mike Shanahan mentions is consistency. With both of them entering their third season, now is the time for it to happen. The Redskins don’t have a lot of depth at wide receiver, which is one reason they signed Donte Stallworth and Devery Henderson in June.
“Everybody knows what type of speed Aldrick has. Can he make the big play?” Shanahan said. “I think everybody has seen that, but for him to really step up his game he’s got to be consistent with the underneath routes as much as the deep routes. Hankerson, the same thing. He’s got to be more consistent not only blocking but catching the short route, the deep route.
“They’re much improved, but we’ve got a ways to go.”
Both players contributed last season, though in different amounts. Hankerson, a third-round pick in 2011, caught 38 passes for 543 yards and three touchdowns. Still, he had four games in which he caught at least four passes – but 10 when he caught two or fewer. He typically served as a fourth wideout, though they drafted him with higher expectations.
Robinson stunned Philadelphia and Dallas in consecutive weeks in November with touchdown catches of 49 and 68 yards. But he caught no passes the rest of the season, and wasn’t even targeted. Defenses started paying more attention to him downfield, but that only means the rest of his game needs to develop. He finished with 11 catches for 237 yards and three scores.
“I have to prove I have more things in me and run more routes and get open on more routes,” said Robinson, a sixth-round pick in 2011. “I expect more production. I expect more balls to be thrown my way this year. Then whatever happens, happens. I can be a great receiver in this league. I have the talent and skill set to be a good receiver. I see it in myself every day.”
The dropped passes weren’t an issue until Saturday, even dating to spring workouts.
“Sometimes I’m trying to make a play before I get the ball,” said Robinson, who also said he will get work as a kick returner. “Sometimes I try to turn upfield and make a guy miss. Sometimes I get lazy. But most of the time I’m on it and focused. I’ve been consistent during minicamp and to now.”
Robinson’s speed scares defenses more, but Hankerson is the more polished of the two and was clearly more productive, able to run more routes. Hankerson, like Robinson, wasn’t helped by coming in as a rookie during the lockout and then he hurt his hip just when he started to play more that season. Robinson spent most of his first year on the practice squad. So, for both players, 2012 was their first full season. Neither seemed all that bothered with the addition of Henderson and Stallworth, though both have a lot to prove.
For Hankerson, his focus is on himself. There’s a comfort level in Year Three.
“I’m better knowing the offense and not worrying about the playbook or what I have to do on this play or that play and being more comfortable,” Hankerson said. “The more comfortable you are, the more explosive you can be and the faster you come off the ball.”
He has speed and his hands improved last season, but the drops still occurred, including one on a third down in the fourth quarter of the playoff loss to Seattle. That’s why any drops in practice are magnified. It’s not as if he’s had a bad camp and his one drop happened to be in full view Saturday. And he didn’t have any problems the rest of practice.
“It’s not how it starts it’s how it ends,” Hankerson said. “You can drop the long pass at the beginning of the game and then go catch the game-winning touchdown.”
His coach doesn’t want to see any drops. And he wants to see, yes, more consistency.
“If you’re not consistent in practice, you’re not going to be consistent in the games,” Shanahan said. “That’s what we stress to them. If you don’t do it in practice, it’s not going to carry over to game situations. So hopefully we keep on getting better here over the next month.”
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There is no practice on Sunday. Practices on Monday are at 10 a.m. and 3:20 p.m. Here’s our guide to camp, if you’re going.
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