While 2013 probably isn’t a ‘make or break’ year for Leonard Hankerson, the wide receiver certainly ranks high on the list of Redskins in need of a breakout performance.
He’s coming off a sophomore season in which he established career highs in receptions (38), yards (543) and touchdowns (3). But more is going to be expected of Hankerson as he enters his third NFL campaign.
And, if his strong showing this offseason is any indication, he knows it.
“If you ain’t your own biggest critic, then you ain’t got nothing,” Hankerson said, responding to a question about Coach Mike Shanahan acknowledging recently that the 24-year-old was “pretty tough on himself last year.”
Hankerson added: “You have to be able to see and know when you did stuff wrong because if you don’t, you’ll never get better. That’s the key, man, improving each and every day, learning from your mistakes and capitalizing on your chances.”
Although much of the offseason program was conducted without media present, when reporters were allowed to observe practice, Hankerson often stood out. He appeared more polished and, when balls were thrown his way, more times than not, he made a play. One of the highlights from Tuesday’s session, in fact, was a deep completion from Kirk Cousins to Hankerson, who had to adjust to the slightly underthrown pass. In one fluid motion, Hankerson reached up, snagged the ball between the approaching safety and cornerback, then quickly turned upfield.
Hankerson acknowledged that he’s feeling more confident and comfortable these days. The reason for it is simple: practice. As a rookie, the NFL lockout cost him the entire offseason. Last summer, his primary focus was rehabbing a serious hip injury, not refining his game like most second year players.
“It makes a huge difference,” he said. “When you’re healthy, it lets you just focus on getting better.”
Hankerson says he’s working to hone all facets of his game.
“You can’t just go out there and pick one thing,” he said. “You have to go out there and keep grinding and work on everything, blocking, route running, focus, everything.”
Hankerson will likely enter training camp next month as the No. 4 receiver on the Redskins’ depth chart behind Pierre Garçon, Josh Morgan and Santana Moss. That isn’t likely to change after the addition of veteran wide receivers Donte’ Stallworth, 32, and Devery Henderson, 31, this week. But it does mean Hankerson can’t afford to slip during training camp and the preseason.
“He’s trying to step it up,” offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan said. “Hank’s been as good as anyone at times, and sometimes he has his little bad moments. He’s been very consistent through OTAs, and I think Hank can be as good as he wants to be.”
Most important, it seems Hankerson is starting to believe that, as well.
“I’m getting better, figuring things out, but I still have a long way to go,” Hankerson said. “I’m still young. We all want to make plays, but you just have to go out there, keep working hard and it’s going to come.”