Leonard Hankerson has had a spotty career with the Washington Redskins thus far, and he may be running out of chances in the capital.
Hankerson has certainly shown promise and performed well at times, but given his lack of "wow" factor, the fact that they aren't likely to keep more than five receivers and his proneness to injury, he's right on the Redskins' bubble as we near the preseason.
In just half an offseason, Washington has changed the receiver position from a weakness to a strength, but it may have left no room for Hankerson in doing so.
The biggest addition was DeSean Jackson, who will undoubtedly man one of the team's top receiver spots in 2014 and beyond. Jackson will make a menacing pair with Pierre Garcon and the two will surely be the target of a great deal of Robert Griffin III's passes. This in and of itself will take away from the targets Hankerson would potentially get, but he'll also lose some because of another receiver the team recently signed.
Andre Roberts had a very solid career with the Arizona Cardinals before coming to Washington, and he could easily contribute on offense as a slot receiver. Roberts is used to being the third receiver, and acted as a nice compliment to Larry Fitzgerald and Michael Floyd in Arizona.
He could very well slide into a similar position with the Redskins, further dimming the lights on Hankerson's chances with the team.
|Roberts' last 3 seasons vs. Hankerson's last 3 seasons|
|Year||Andre Roberts||Leonard Hankerson|
|2011||51 rec., 586 yards & 2 TDs||13 rec., 163 yards & 0 TDs|
|2012||64 rec., 759 yards & 5 TDs||38 rec., 543 yards & 3 TDs|
|2013||43 rec., 471 yards & 2 TDs||30 rec., 375 yards & 3 TDs|
It's not like Roberts is truly leaps and bounds better than Hankerson, but he is more consistent—plus, he just inked a four-year contract while Hankerson is entering the last year of his.
Hank will have a good number of opportunities to prove himself throughout training camp and preseason, and that may be enough for him to put himself ahead of some other receivers in the coaches minds. One guy he may be battling with for a roster spot is Santana Moss, who is also entering the last year of his deal.
It's hard to see the 35-year-old Moss not retiring after the season. His role in the offense has decreased over the past few seasons, and he's just running out of gas, so it's very probable he'll retire after the season.
Considering that probability, it may be prudent of Washington to release him now and give Hankerson one more year to prove what he can do.
Jay Gruden's offense has featured several receivers at once in recent years—he's had at least three receivers with 50+ catches during his last three seasons with the Cincinnati Bengals—which means there'll be plenty of passes to go around for the Redskins' receivers.
|Bengals vs. Redskins: # of receivers with 50-plus catches|
|Year||Cincinnati Bengals||Washington Redskins|
If Hankerson can bite off a piece of the action and prove himself as a reliable target, he could definitely play his way into a new contract.
It will be nice if Washington can maintain a youthful and talented receiving corps, even though the jury is still out on Hankerson. Keeping Hank now and allowing him another year to grow and develop would be the smart thing to do long-term, but we'll see how the bigwigs decide to do things.
What it all boils down to is this: can Hankerson become a reliable part of the offense? He's displayed the talent, but he's definitely traveling uphill with the Redskins' new arrivals sitting ahead of him on the depth chart.
Even so, he should be dealt an even hand and, given those opportunities, perform well. Hankerson is young and talented, and will be a nice guy to have even if he isn't a featured player.