After going without a catch in the opening weekend of the NFL season in 2012, wide receiver Leonard Hankerson didn’t go another game without a reception during the remainder of the year for the Washington Redskins. He clearly established himself as a target that quarterback Robert Griffin III can look to moving forward, and his third year in the league in 2013 could easily be his coming out party in the nation’s capital.
All eyes are on RG3 to see how he recovers from his catastrophic knee injury in Washington’s playoff loss to the Seattle Seahawks, but assuming he comes back fully healthy, Hankerson figures to be one of his primary targets. Both Pierre Garcon and Josh Morgan are listed ahead of Hankerson on the depth chart, but Garcon’s health is always a concern and Morgan actually had fewer yards than Hankerson a year ago on 10 mores catches.
Clearly there is an explosive element to Hankerson’s game that has to appeal to the Redskins. Santana Moss has been the fixture in D.C. as the exciting offensive playmaker for nearly the past decade, but at 34 years of age, clearly his best days are behind him. What has prevented Hankerson’s career from really taking off to date with the Skins has been drops. Proving that he can be a reliable option for the coaching staff and RG3 will be a big hurdle for him to clear during the preseason to gain the confidence of the locker room.
With Hankerson’s ability to take the top off of a defense and RG3’s dynamic read-option skill set, the Redskins have the perfect formula to hit some deep balls offensively. Pounding the run and maintaining the threat of the ground game can suck the safeties down into the box and open up the middle of the field for a guy like Hankerson to take balls the distance.
Confidence will be a big factor in determining whether or not Hankerson can take the next step in the upcoming season. He needs to prove to himself that he can make the tough catches rather than let them slip through his grasp as they have in the past. If he can overcome those demons throughout training camp and assert himself as a go-to guy during the preseason, look for Hankerson to emerge as one of RG3’s main targets in the Redskins’ potent offensive attack this coming season.