The Future Is Now
For rookie Receivers like Niles Paul and Leonard Hankerson, this year has been anything but normal. Drafted to the team and then immediately cut off from contact wih the organization due to the lockout, both wideouts were victims of the labor dispute.
Receiver is not an easy position to learn in the NFL in the first place. Defenses are much more complex and faster than anything these guys see in college. The game is so big or these guys that at first it can be overwhelming.
Take away the OTAs and Mini Camps and these guys are at a super disadvantage.
“I mean to lose OTA’s is big because in college you have spring football, and that’s where you get to learn and get everything right.” Rookie Wideout Leonard Hankerson Said in a recent SOW interview, “OTA’s are like spring football for the NFL, so to not have that time, it really hurts.”
Let’s be honest the fact that it has hurt these guys has definitely showed. Hankerson who just got his very first game action against Carolina on Sunday showed that things are not exactly in sync…yet.
On Hankerson’s first play as a pro there was definite confusion on how his route was supposed to be run. New starting QB John Beck expected Hankerson to cut his route short to beat the CB and Hankerson thought it best to stretch the field.
The miscommunication resulted in John Beck’s first interception as a starter and closed the door on any chance of aWashingtoncomeback.
In the midst of the meltdown that Redskins Fans are currently going through, a lot of people have pretty much given up on Hankerson, taking to Twitter to voice there disapproval with the former University of Miami Star.
Truthfully it is a little early to write Hankerson off as a bust, and now with Santana Moss sidelined for up to 8 weeks Hankerson should see his chance to prove his doubters wrong.
Mike Shanahan feels surprisingly comfortable with the rookie wideouts, “Hankerson has been making some unbelievable plays in practice… we threw him out there to give him an opportunity”. When asked about the interception Shanahan defended Hankerson stating “I think it was his first play”.
It’s safe to say that Hankerson is a work in progress, but make no mistake the kid can play(he holds just about every Miami receiving record). He has all the physical tools that you want in an NFL receiver strength, speed, and most importantly the size that Washingtonhas been missing at the receiver position.
Niles Paul on the other hand looks like he is ready to make a more immediate impact with his opportunity. Since Camp paul has been considered the real deal. At points in camp it looked like he was the best player drafted. The guy is an absolute professional and has done everything needed to show the coaches he deserves a shot ( he’s basically the anti Devin Thomas).
Over the last few weeks we have seen Paul work his way into the game plan more and more, taking the traditional Shanahan route; practicing hard and making the most of every opportunity even on special teams.
Paul made an amazing catch late in the 4th quarter on Sunday converting the first down to keep alive a drive that ended with a Fred Davis touchdown. Paul has proven that even in big pressure situations Beck and the coaching staff can trust him to do his job.
If you’re looking for big play potential Paul is your guy. He has speed that is out of this world in the open field. Don’t believe me watch the clip of him running down Brandon Banks on his preseason return TD. The guy can flat out fly and has the ability to take it to the house when given a seam.
Injuries are a huge part of the NFL and even though losing starters can hurt, it also is a great way to find out what you have in the young guys. Fred Davis is a prime example. In 2009 when Chris Cooley went down with injury,Davisstepped up and showed the NFL that he was able to play when called on. It has worked out pretty well forDavisearning the starting spot over Cooley (who was struggling with injury), and having a Pro Bowl season this year.
For Hankerson and Paul the door is open, now is the time to make there mark. With the Redskins sitting at 3-3, the season is hanging in the balance and will be determined by how young guys like them perform.
Sunday is the first step in these two young careers and hopefully it will finally be a look at the future at Wide Receiver in Ashburn.