Leonard Hankerson had about as frustrating a rookie season as he could have had. During the preseason, the University of Miami product never seemed to have trouble getting open. Passes would come his way, but Hankerson rarely could hang on.
And aside from the drops, Hankerson struggled to pick up all aspects of the offense. Because of this, the Redskins’ third-round pick didn’t play in his first official game until seven weeks into the regular season.
Hankerson finally broke out in his fourth game, making eight catches for 106 yards, but in the same game, he tore the labrum in his hip and was lost for the season.
After an offseason that featured a setback in rehab and surgery in February, Hankerson finally has returned, and is competing for a key role in Washington’s offense.
Held out of organized training activities and minicamp to ensure he had fully healed, the past three days of training camp practices have represented Hankerson’s first full-speed football activity in eight months.
After a slow start on Thursday, Hankerson had a strong practice on Friday, making four impressive catches from quarterback Robert Griffin III.
The 6-foot-2, 211-pound Hankerson says this training camp is “totally different from last year. I know what [coaches] are expecting now. … I know what I need to do. I’m more confident in the playbook.”
And in turn, Redskins coach Mike Shanahan said that his confidence in Hankerson — both mentally and physically — is high.
“I feel really good about Hankerson,” Shanahan said. “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.”
The Redskins have Hankerson competing for one of the starting wide receiver positions opposite free agent pickup, Pierre Garçon. In the early days of camp, he has alternated with Josh Morgan as the starter. Other times, he has lined up in the slot while competing for that spot with Santana Moss.
Hankerson is Washington’s biggest wide receiver. Boasting great leaping ability and hands that measure 10-5/8 inches across, he has all the tools to be an impact player.
But Hankerson said he doesn’t allow concerns over whether or not he will start to consume him. He just wants to do his best and let the rest fall into place.
“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.”