Third-year wide receiver Leonard Hankerson continues to show signs of development as he made his third consecutive start and recorded four catches for 49 yards. Hankerson’s most crucial counting as a 17-yard reception on third-and-three to set Washington up to take a third-quarter lead that the team never relinquished.
Pierre Garcon remains the team’s clear-cut No. 1 threat, but Hankerson has started establishing himself as a reliable No. 2 threat for the Redskins.
“That’s what you have to do: You have to make plays,” Hankerson said. “I saw I was in one-on-one coverage, got open and Robert made a great throw. I’m just trying to give my all out there — do what I can do, whether it’s catching the ball, getting upfield, getting a first down.”
Through four games, Hankerson ranks third on the team with 15 catches for 185 yards and two touchdowns. He is on pace to record a 60 catches for 740 yards and eight touchdowns. Those would all count as career highs for Hankerson, who had just 13 catches for 163 yards in an injury-shortened rookie season and then recorded 38 receptions for 543 yards and three touchdowns last year.
Hankerson rarely has struggled to create separation from defensive backs. But consistency proved the biggest struggle for him. He would make a tough catch here and there, and then would get open and drop the ball on what looked like routine plays. But this season, the Miami product appears to have begun turning the corner.
“Hank’s always been one of our best guys in terms of separation, and that’s usually one of the first things you look for in a receiver,” offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan said. “Hank’s just been a little up and down when he has separated over the years – finishing a play. He’s done a good job of that the last couple weeks. He’s getting separation, he’s making the catch, he’s getting up the field, making some plays after the catch. And if he keeps doing that, he’s can have a great career because he’s got the skills to separate, he’s a big guy with got good hands. It’s just the consistency that we’ve talked about with him, and he’s been consistent the last few weeks and I think the results are showing everyone else.”
Redskins Coach Mike Shanahan said continuity and health throughout the offseason has benefited Hankerson in his development. Hankerson as a rookie didn’t have an offseason to work with his coaches because of the NFL lockout. Then last year, he spent the summer rehabbing from hip surgery rather than practicing with the team. Fully healthy in this calendar year, he didn’t miss an offseason practice. The work and improved knowledge is manifesting itself on the field, Shanahan said.
“Hank is really playing well. When he gets the opportunity to set guys up one-on-one, he usually wins,” Shanahan said. “He’s one of the guys that has size, has strength and is becoming more comfortable not only with the system, but with himself. It’s nice to have a guy that’s healthy all the way through the summer, through the offseason, training camp, and he’s been able to do that. Therefore, you can see the progress that he’s made.”
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● The Redskins are off until Mon. Oct. 7. The next game is 8:30 p.m. Sun. Oct. 13 at Dallas.
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