Leonard Hankerson: The Key To A Dynamic Redskins Passing Attack
- Updated: August 3, 2012
Let’s be clear: the Redskins have many things to be hopeful about. Improved play at the QB position will come, hopefully sooner than later. But for a franchise in search of their Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, Drew Brees, or even Michael Vick since the Reagan Administration, it is hard to not hope that RG3 is the answer they have been looking for.
Over the past 4 months, enough has been written about the Griffin vs. Luck debate to fill an encyclopedia. Who is the better QB? Who is the better athlete? Who is the better fit?
If you have watched TV over the last few days, you have no doubt been bombarded every three minutes or so with ads starring Redskins QB Robert Griffin III.
To the casual, uninformed fan, it would be pretty easy to think that Griffin was the first overall pick based off the exposure he has had. The difference in the two, at least this season, is the supporting cast.
Indianapolis is fresh off one of the largest roster overhauls in recent memory, while the Redskins are now in their 3rd year of a rebuild that has brought an infusion of talented, young players to surround Griffin.
Second year wide receiver Leonard Hankerson is one of the most intriguing, if not the most intriguing member of the Redskins youth movement. While it is easy to get excited about newcomers like Pierre Garcon, it is Hankerson who is the X-factor of the receiver position.
Early reports coming out of camp suggest that Hankerson is playing at an almost unstoppable level, and it’s no secret that the coaching staff is crazy about the kid.
Even going back to January, Shanahan has touted Hankerson as a potential game breaking receiver. But it is hard to forget the severity of the hip injury Hankerson suffered last year.
“I feel really good about Hankerson,” Shanahan told reporters last week. “I’ve been with those hips before, and you just don’t know about the hips. It really didn’t look like there were any setbacks today whatsoever. He’s been going full speed for the last couple weeks, and knock on wood, he can stay healthy and keep on getting better.”
So far, Hankerson’s hip is holding up through camp, but the former University of Miami star knows he is not out of the water just yet.
“Not quite yet. I’m still working down in the training room, working with [Head Athletic Trainer] Larry Hess and the other training guys. Still preparing myself, still getting better each, and every day, and I have to continue to work.”
Hankerson does admit that the injury is healing, but that at this point, it’s all about regaining confidence in his body.
“It’s nothing major. It [the hip] is just not normal. Any time you come off an injury, you tend to have low confidence in what you have. I just have to continue to keep working on building my confidence and just keep going.”
You may be wondering why so much attention is being paid to a second year receiver coming off injury, so let me clear up any confusion.
The Redskins have been searching for a true, legitimate number one type wide receiver since Art Monk called it quits. Hankerson has all the measurable that you want to see in a wide out. Standing at 6’2’’ and posting 4.4 speed with a 36’’ vertical jump, Hank Time is the type of WR that offensive coaches dream of, and defensive coordinators have nightmares about.
Most impressive is the ability that Hankerson has to use his body to win the position battle with defenders. When you have a guy that can not only get past you and above you to grab a ball, but can also box you out like a center fighting for a rebound, the question is not can he beat you, but how badly.
For now, Hankerson isn’t buying into his own hype, but instead remains focused on putting in the necessary work to show why he shattered every receiving record at one of the largest wide receiver factories in the country.
“It’s not about if I should be a starter. It’s about coming here and putting in work,” he said. “If I come in here and put in work, bust my tail every day and win the competition, then that’s why. We’re all out here having fun. We all compete with each other. It’s an open competition, and whoever comes out on top, comes out on top.”
Hope – it is what drives fans back to Ashburn in 100 degree August heat to catch a glimpse of what their team will do this fall. For fans of the Redskins, players like Hankerson could be exactly what they have been hoping for, for so long.