Leonard Hankerson, prior to a knee injury, had begun to play a key role. (John McDonnell/The Washington Post)

Between now and training camp, Mike Jones takes a closer look at players who find themselves competing for key roles this season, or are in position battles this preseason.

After two up-and-down seasons marked by inconsistent play, Washington Redskins wide receiver Leonard Hankerson finally seemed to have turned the corner last season.

He had replaced Josh Morgan as the starting wide receiver opposite Pierre Garcon, and found himself on pace to put up career numbers with 30 catches for 375 yards and three touchdowns through 10 games, including seven starts.

But Hankerson tore both his anterior cruciate and lateral collateral ligaments in his knee, and missed the remainder of the season following surgery.

The fourth-year pro out of Miami has spent the offseason rehabbing and has displayed consistent improvement. But at the conclusion of June’s minicamp, Hankerson had yet to receive clearance to practice.

Hankerson at that time was sprinting up hills and doing lunges while dragging a weighted sled. He said he hopes to return by the start of training camp, but that he hadn’t received any assurances from his doctors. It’s possible that Hankerson could open training camp on the physically unable to perform list.

If Hankerson, a third-round pick in 2011, can make a full recovery, he presents a unique skill set. At 6 feet 2 and 211 pounds, he’s one of the biggest wide receivers on the roster. Only undrafted rookie Cody Hoffman is taller, at 6-4. Hankerson also has the ability to line up on the outside or in the slot.

But Hankerson also will be returning to a receiving unit that’s now more crowded and significantly improved. This offseason, Washington added speedster DeSean Jackson and slot receiver Andre Roberts. The Redskins also drafted Tulane’s Ryan Grant, and signed Hoffman, whom coaches have both praised this offseason.

So, it is up in the air where Hankerson fits into the mix once and if he is able to return.

Have a Redskins question? Send an e-mail to mike.jones@washpost.com with the subject line “Mailbag question,” and it might be answered on Tuesday in The Mailbag.

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