- John Keim, ESPN Staff Writer
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ASHBURN, Va. -- Taking a look at the Redskins two third-year receivers; Leonard Hankerson is further ahead -- this is what he's learned. Aldrick Robinson is developing -- this is what he's still learning.
1. Yes, Leonard Hankerson still needs to prove he has consistent hands. It was an issue in the past; it was one this summer as well. And it’s sort of a big part of his job. But, on Tuesday, Redskins coach Mike Shanahan praised Hankerson’s growth as a receiver. He’s open even when he’s not getting the ball.
There’s a reason.
“Hank has always been talented,” Redskins receivers coach Mike McDaniel said. “It’s been about the detail in the offense and playing at a high speed all the time.”
That means understanding how to get off the line consistently. As McDaniel pointed out: This was Hankerson’s first full offseason. His first was shortened by the lockout, and last year was spent recovering from hip surgery.
“He’s becoming more consistent to the point where the quarterback, regardless of the route and who the defender is, can know they don’t have to look his way… and know they can throw to Hank and he’ll be open. He’s playing faster all the time. He has a rhythm to his game. He fully understands how to get open. In the past he might try to make a move on a guy, and it’s two or three yards too short from where the quarterback is ready to throw.”
Coach Mike Shanahan wants to get Hankerson more playing time, saying on Tuesday that he’s open even when not receiving the ball. Hankerson caught five passes for 80 yards and two touchdowns against the Eagles. The 80 yards were more than he had in any game last season; but be warned: In 2012, he had games of six and seven receptions -- and followed each of those with a one-catch day. For a 6-foot-2 receiver, considered a long strider, he does a good job with hard plants to create separation. On an eight-yard gain in the fourth quarter, corner Brandon Boykin shaded him to the inside; Hankerson created another yard of separation off his break to the outside.
“It’s all about your route depth,” he said Hankerson, who had only 10 catches in the last six regular season games in 2012. “You come off the ball hard and get route depth. You get your depth and things will be on time.”
2. My initial thought on two of these throws was that Robinson’s size worked against him as the defensive back was able to come over the top to deflect the pass. Bad mistake on my part. It wasn’t about size, it was about speed. Robinson broke his route too soon, and the second drive of the fourth quarter shows what happens in that case (well, two incompletions for starters). On the first, a second-and-2, Robinson did a good job driving his man off the ball. But he cuts inside after five yards, with the corner three yards off him. Problem is, Robert Griffin III was just getting to the top of his drop and not yet ready to throw. By the time Griffin unloads the ball, the defensive back already is driving on Robinson. An easy breakup.
On that same drive, Robinson again created separation on fourth-and-15. But, again, the timing was off, partly because Griffin had to drift to his left thanks to pressure. Once again, when Griffin throws the ball Robinson already is into his break, and the defensive back recovers for another breakup.
“He’s been as good as anybody at separating from man coverage, we’re very confident in that,” McDaniel said.
“He’s immensely fast, and fast guys tend to run the routes a little short at times,” McDaniel said, “because they’re running fast and their clock goes off early. So what we try to work with him is making sure he gets his depth, so when he breaks down on his route, he gets the ball out of his break.”
Robinson said, “It’s a big step learning the offense and knowing when to be open. That’s what I’ve gotten better at and what I have to continue to be better at. I can’t get open too fast. It might sound funny, but it means a lot. Get open within the time constraints of the play.”
11hEric D. Williams