Last week, prior to John Beck’s proclamation in his impromptu media session, I made it a point to remark that Leonard Hankerson may not have been to blame for the INT late in the game. I said it looked as though he made a read on the corner who bit down, and Beck threw it to where Hankerson would have been had he just contested Gamble for the catch instead of trying to make a play by getting open downfield. John Beck confirmed that, and whether he was just being the pro and leader and taking the bullet for his guy or not, is left to nothing but speculation.
This week, Hankerson addressed fans who seemingly wanted every terrible thing that can happen to a pro athlete, to happen to him. He declared that he didn’t run the wrong route. There were people who bashed him for saying he didn’t run the wrong route, feeling he may have just dumped the blame on Beck and tried to be a diva. And I witnessed people call him a bust, and say he’s always been lousy.
Leonard Hankerson is a Wide Receiver out of the University of Miami; one in a long lineage of all-pro greats to come from the school. Our very own, beloved Santana Moss. Reggie Wayne. Andre Johnson. Michael Irvin.
At Miami, Hankerson became one of only 5 players at WR in school history (tied with Wayne, Irvin, Johnson and Lamar Thomas) to catch more than 20 TD’s in his career at the school. Hankerson did something that no receiver at Miami had done since Irvin set his record of 12 TD’s in a season, and topped that with 13 his senior year. Hankerson is ranked 5th in school history in both receptions (139) and receiving yards, and 3rd all time for TD passes caught.
Now, taking that into account it’s fair to say that his expectations may be pretty high. But let’s also take into account that he’s a rookie, and that he did not get to participate in OTA’s because of the lockout. And one last little fact that anyone will ever tell you about wide receivers in the NFL… never expect them to be dominant performers their first two years in the league.
Hankerson in the preseason dropped quite a few passes, and it was a knock on him prior to entering the league, but at the same time, all of his drops in the preseason came from him losing focus on the ball by turning upfield and trying to make a play. Usually when that happens to a rookie, it’s all about the speed of the game catching them by surprise. It’s not comparable to Terrell Owens or Roddy White who drop 30-yarders wide open, or 5 yard hooks wide open without turning. To me, I’m glad Hankerson wants to make a play, and when the game slows down for him (which comes with practicing those situations and playing in games), he’ll correct that mistake.
Yes, Niles Paul has looked better as a rookie so far, but again, you can’t expect anything from rookie receivers, nor should you expect anything of them as sophomores. Paul plays a more disciplined style of football, so he’s more favorable to do things immediately, but Hankerson still fits the bill of the great Miami receivers in that lineage before him, who don’t play that disciplined style every snap, and because of their abstract fashion, will tend to make plays. The verdict is still out if those plays will be made, but that’s the case with every rookie, ever, and it’s far too early to write him off.
Hankerson has been dropped on the depth chart by Mike Shanahan in order to work on the practicing bit of correcting the mistakes, and because of injury and due to great practice, he finally got to crack the roster and play in the game, where a mistake was made by someone on the field, and all of a sudden he’s catching heat from every angle.
Except this one.
I’ve said all week that I hope to see Hankerson become one of the ultimately successful targets in the league, in particular, in team history. And when he does, all of you Cowboys fans people who have already declared him a bust and are asking for his head, will be denied access to the bandwagon. Don’t flip the coin and act as though you never made these asinine declarations and demanded his trade, release, or head. Don’t turn back around and act as though you said he “looks like he might be a bust”. Stick to what you’ve said so far, and wear that half a silver and blue star you’ve started to grow on your chest with the same pride in which you declared Hankerson worthless. Walk tall with the knowledge that you didn’t stand as Redskins fan and defend our warrior’s in their developmental years, the childhood of their career, and that you didn’t drink from the cup of hope and belief with the rest of us.
Hail to the Redskins! Hail to you, Leonard Hankerson! And Hail to all you Redskins fans who asked for patience from Dan Snyder, and were rewarded with it, and continue to believe that the patience exists. And to all of you who demanded it, got it, and instantly wanted nothing but the old way of Dan Snyder ownership, impatience, and overpaid nothings… Hail to you as well… Hail to you.
As always, leave your thoughts in the comments or hit me up (and follow) on Twitter @Sean_Bishop.