- John Keim, ESPN Staff Writer
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ASHBURN, Va. -- The Washington Redskins kept rotating the players, hoping one would emerge. Neither Josh Morgan nor Leonard Hankerson pulled away, so the rotation continues. Now the question is: Will one of them do enough to keep defenses from focusing harder on Pierre Garcon?
Through three games, Garcon has been the Redskins’ most consistent offensive player. He’s caught 23 passes for 280 yards and a touchdown.
Meanwhile at the Z position, Hankerson and Morgan have combined for 19 catches, 245 yards and two touchdowns (both by Hankerson). But neither has provided a consistent threat.
“You have got to make sure that the defense respects that you have other people that can attack you and hurt you,” Redskins offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan said. “As long as they keep that respect then it’s easier to get Pierre the ball. We need other guys to make plays and to continue doing that, not only to help Pierre, but the whole offense.”
In the past two seasons, neither Hankerson nor Morgan has surpassed 80 yards receiving in a game. And, in their two seasons together they've surpassed 60 yards receiving a combined six times.
Hankerson, a third-round pick in 2011, has talent but hasn’t been consistent. He improved against man coverage and creating separation on his cuts. But he’s not explosive after the catch, averaging just 4.2 yards after the reception. Morgan averages 5.0 yards.
“Neither one really took it and ran with [the starting job] so it’s really stayed the same,” Shanahan said. “We look at them as equal until one separates themselves. Sometimes one does stuff better than the other on certain plays. We think there’s a plus to having them out there, and a minus in certain plays, so we try to keep it going until they distance themselves.”
The Redskins signed Morgan in the 2012 offseason and he started last season, a year removed from needing seven pins inserted into his ankle to repair a fracture. He lacked explosiveness last season, but said it’s back. There have been times it was evident during the preseason.
“You can see it on film, you see more separating a lot more,” Morgan said. “I feel better; I feel more comfortable.”
But it hasn’t translated into more success. It’s not just on Hankerson and Morgan as others need to help as well. Slot receiver Santana Moss has done so, with 15 catches and tight end Jordan Reed has 13. But they need another downfield threat.
Meanwhile, Garcon, who breaks more tackles and shows more suddenness after the grab, averages 5.5 yards after the catch.
“If he’s the only guy you go to,” Shanahan said, “it makes it pretty easy for a defense to take that away.”