Leonard Hankerson is entering the all important third year for wide receivers. The general rule of thumb in the NFL is that it takes most receivers three years to develop into reliable players (unless you get a freak like Calvin Johnson or A.J. Green). Hankerson has flashed signs of potential in his first two seasons, but has been inconsistent for the most part. He impressed in the preseason opener and continued to do so against the Steelers.
On the first play of the game for the Redskins offense, Hankerson made a good catch on a ball thrown behind him.
Hankerson lines up tight to the formation in the slot. Darrel Young motions outside from the backfield, which spreads out the defense. Steelers corner William Gay bumps outside to cover Young, leaving linebacker Jason Worilds matched up on Hankerson.
Hankerson uses his long strides to get level with Worilds, forcing Worilds to open his hips to the outside. That allows Hankerson to cut back inside on the slant pattern.
Hankerson makes the cut efficiently and is wide open across the middle for Kirk Cousins.
Cousins throws the ball behind Hankerson, who makes a nice adjustment to turn his body around and secure the catch. The ball placement limits Hankerson's ability to get many yards after the catch, but he did manage to get past the first down marker and move the chains.
Catches like that show promise for Hankerson going into his critical third season. But we also saw the inconsistency creep into his game last night.
After a Tyler Polumbus holding penalty, the Redskins find themselves in a second and 17 situation. Hankerson is running a post route.
Hankerson finds some space in the defense and Rex Grossman pulls the trigger. The ball is high and behind Hankerson, but he gets both hands on the ball.
Hankerson fails to hold on to the catch and it falls incomplete. Sure, it would have been a tough catch given the ball placement from Grossman, but when a receiver is able to get both hands on the ball, you expect him to be able to catch the ball.
But he redeemed himself with a great one-handed catch in the end zone for a touchdown.
The Redskins get pushed back to the 10 yard line after Aldrick Robinson's illegal touching penalty. Hankerson runs a post route, but sells a big fake to the corner.
At the top of his route, Hankerson drops his head and shoulder to sell the fake to the corner. This forces William Gay to open his hips to the outside and make sure he's able to cover the corner. But Hankerson plants his foot in the ground and is ready to cut back across the face of the defender.
Just like in the first play, Hankerson cuts across the face oft he defender and finds himself with space in the end zone. Grossman is under pressure and forced to put the ball in the air for Hankerson to go up and grab.
The ball is floated up and away from Hankerson, but he uses his long arms and big hands to go up and pull in the one-handed catch.
Hankerson made two good catches against the Steelers where he had to adjust to the ball, but also dropped a pass that he got two hands to. That inconsistency will drive coaches and fans crazy. But he again flashed the weapon he can be in the red zone. The Redskins lack a receiver with the height and athleticism to go up and get the ball on a fade. Hankerson has all the tools needed to be that guy, but can he put it all together consistently enough for the Redskins to be able to trust him?