Mike Shanahan typically tries to avoid heaping praise on individual players. But the Redskins’ head coach made an exception when asked recently about third-year wide receivers Leonard Hankerson and Aldrick Robinson.
Hankerson established career highs last season for receptions (38), receiving yards (543) and touchdowns (3). But what has Shanahan excited is the fact that the 24-year-old has finally had an an entire offseason to hone his route running and refine other details of his game.
In 2011, the five-month lockout erased Hankerson’s first offseason in the NFL and, as a rookie, he played in only four games before landing on injured reserve with a hip injury. In 2012, he spent most of the spring and summer watching from the sideline as he rehabbed from surgery to repair a torn hip labrum.
“One thing about Hankerson, this is his first offseason, OTAs, spring ball, whatever you want to call it that he’s been healthy,” Shanahan said. “So he’s had the chance to develop.”
Hankerson made five starts and appeared in all 17 games last season and, as of now, figures to enter training camp next month fourth on the Redskins’ depth chart behind Pierre Garçon, Josh Morgan and Santana Moss.
“He’s in shape. His weight is the right way,” Shanahan said of Hankerson, who is listed at 6-2, 211-pounds. “He’s getting some valuable reps."
Shanahan, though, saved his highest praise for Robinson.
“Aldrick has made strides each year that he's been here,” the coach said. “I think he’s having one heck of a camp. Not only does he have speed, his consistency catching the football right now is as good as it's been."
Robinson has always been known for the former but not necessarily the latter. The 5-11, 181-pounder made two starts in place of an injured Garçon last season, but dropped passes and missed blocks prevented him from earning a bigger role. Robinson finished his first season on the 53-man roster with 11 catches, 237 yards and three touchdowns.
The highlight of Robinson’s season came in consecutive weeks against the Eagles and Cowboys as he hauled in touchdown passes of 49 and 68 yards, respectively. Interestingly, the 24-year-old was not targeted again over the final six games.
But from the sounds of it, he’s using OTAs to reprove himself.
"Hopefully," Shanahan said, "he can keep that growth pattern going.”