Leonard Hankerson draws praise for Sunday’s improved effort

With his team still waiting for a player to establish himself as a consistent pass-catching threat opposite Pierre Garcon, third-year wide receiver Leonard Hankerson on Sunday turned in one of the better performances of his career as the Redskins defeated the Chargers.

Targeted six times against the Chargers, Hankerson recorded five catches for 55 yards as the Redskins improved to 3-5 with the 30-24 overtime win. Redskins coach Mike Shanahan on Monday evening praised Hankerson’s efforts — some of which didn’t show up in the statistical report.

“Well, more than just stepping up — and you see the catches –— what we see is every play that he’s in the game, both in the running game and the passing game,” Shanahan said. “If the quarterback did go to him, is he open? And he played a very good game. He stepped up and did a lot of good things that if the quarterback would have looked his way, would he have been open or not? The majority of the time he would have. He played an excellent game.”

Prior to Sunday, Hankerson had only 19 catches for 254 yards and three touchdowns with five of those receptions and 80 of those yards and two touchdowns coming in the season opener. He had yet to make a consistent impact in the games since the opener, however.

As a result, the Redskins had rotated Hankerson, Josh Morgan and Aldrick Robinson in and out at that  ‘Z’ receiver position. But none had emerged as true complement to Garcon.

Those inconsistencies had prompted Shanahan to say last week, “I think we do have a second guy,” Coach Mike Shanahan said. “Who that guy is right now, I’m not sure. But we’ve got guys competing, and we’re going to have a guy step up. We’ve got guys with the ability to be a number two, but you want to take control, and that takes everybody. . . . When they go in and they get an opportunity, then they better show us that they deserve to be in there more time, and if you do, then you’ll stay in there longer. If you don’t do something outstanding and you’re full speed, the chances are you’re not going to be in there all the time.”

Hankerson took a step toward doing that this past week when he proved himself to be more sure-handed than in previous games and made tough catches to bail out Robert Griffin III and the offense and keep the chains moving. Now, Hankerson and the Redskins will see if the former third-round pick is capable of making those types of solid performances more of a regular occurrence in the second half of the season.

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