Leonard Hankerson’s name continues to surface as a possible breakout player to watch in 2012.
Though the second-year Washington Redskins receiver caught just 13 passes for 163 yards last season in a rookie campaign ended prematurely by a hip injury, many experts look at a couple of factors favoring Hankerson in 2012: His football makeup (a 6-foot-2, 205-pound frame) and the fact that talented rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III is expected to immediately improve the Redskins’ passing attack.
NFL.com writer Marc Sessler was the latest to note Hankerson’s potential. In this NFL.com piece, Sessler believes Hankerson is set for a “sophomore jump:”
“Before he was lost with a hip injury, Hankerson gained the confidence of the Redskins coaching staff through his performance in practice and two intriguing starts,” Sessler wrote. “In the second of those, we saw Hankerson tear up the Miami Dolphins with eight catches for 106 yards.”
Sessler also touched on the Griffin III effect:
“Griffin was highly accurate at Baylor and used the weapons around him. All Redskins wideouts should see a boost with the rookie QB at the controls, but Hankerson, especially, could see his career altered by RG3’s arrival. Hankerson’s not a household name here in June, but riding Griffin’s coattails could thrust him into the lights.”
Sessler certainly can’t claim to be the first to predict a big season for Hankerson. ESPN’s Mel Kiper wrote May 18 in an ESPN.com Insider piece that Hankerson should be primed for a breakout 2012 season:
“I thought Hankerson was just about to really get it going last year when a hip injury derailed his season. While the Redskins went out and made several moves at wide receiver, I think Hankerson could put up big numbers as a down-the-field threat in Mike Shanahan’s offense. He’s a bigger target, something this offense lacks otherwise, outside of tight end Fred Davis.”
Not everybody has hopped on the Hankerson bandwagon, however. ESPN’s Adam Schefter thinks Hankerson has some work to do to simply get on the field ahead of the team’s other receivers.
“Keep in mind, Washington invested a lot of money into Pierre Garcon and Josh Morgan and has big hopes for each of those receivers,” Schefter wrote in this Insider piece for ESPN.com. “Plus, the Redskins still have Santana Moss. Now maybe Hankerson is good enough that he busts through that logjam at the position, but I don’t see that happening this season.”
It’ll definitely be interesting to see what a healthy Hankerson can do with Griffin III under center. Even if Hankerson does eventually slide into the slot position, that doesn’t necessarily mean he can’t put up big numbers there.
Just ask New York Giants’ wide receiver Victor Cruz about that very topic. He only helped lead the Giants to a Super Bowl title last season. Oh, and who was his counterpart in that game? New England Patriots’ wide receiver Wes Welker, who has made a living out of burning defenses out of the slot.
Tags: leonard hankerson, washington redskins
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