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Falcons Wr Leonard Hankerson Not Caught Up In Preseason Hype


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Falcons WR Leonard Hankerson not caught up in preseason hype

Vaughn McClure, ESPN Staff Writer

He was the talk of Atlanta Falcons' training camp, yet Leonard Hankerson would rather not even talk about it.

The fifth-year receiver doesn't walk around thinking he's accomplished anything because he really hasn't. Any whispers of Hankerson being the “X-factor” for the Falcons this season is meaningless to him right now.

“I mean, my job is to just go out there and do whatever I can, whatever is possible, to help the team out,” Hankerson said. “Whether it’s making a block, whether it’s special teams, whether it’s catching the ball or whether it’s coaching up young guys, I feel like I can bring a lot to the team. Whatever I’m called upon to do, that’s what I’ll do.”

If Hankerson can consistently play in the same fashion has has during the offseason and preseason, his number could be called often. He looks like a legitimate option behind Julio Jones. And Hankerson's role could become even more important if the swollen elbow that veteran Roddy White started experiencing the last few days turns into a significant issue.
Falcons receiver Leonard Hankerson scores during Friday's preseason game against the Jets. Bill Kostroun/AP

The 6-foot-2, 211-pound Hankerson gave the NFL world a glimpse of what has been going on at Falcons headquarters when he scored on 2-yard touchdown reception from Matt Ryan in Friday's 30-22 preseason loss to the New York Jets. Hankerson had three catches for 15 yards while running the same offensive system he grew accustomed to in Washington under Kyle Shanahan, now his coordinator again in Atlanta.

Ryan seems extremely comfortable targeting Hankerson.

“I think Hank is doing an awesome job,” Ryan told Falcons radio analyst Dave Archer during a postgame interview. “He's a guy that shows up every day. He works extremely hard. He's a quieter guy, but he's intense. I've been really pleased with what he's brought to our team.”

Hankerson's familiarity with the scheme has made his transition seamless. His size and speed is an asset, and he's shown a willingness to catch the ball over the middle and absorb contact. He looked nearly flawless throughout training camp.

“I feel like I had good one,” Hankerson said of camp. “It’s probably been my best so far. But there are still things I can go out and get better on – whether it’s my route-running. I feel like my job is to catch the ball. I think I probably had one drop, maybe. You always want to come out perfect, but it happens. But I feel like I had a good one. I went out and I did what I wanted to get done. I competed. And that’s all I can do.”

Moving forward, health is the biggest concern tied to Hankerson. He suffered anterior cruciate ligament and lateral collateral ligament tears in his left knee back in 2013 that limited him to 11 games in the last two seasons. Hankerson said there is no lingering pain in the knee.

But watching Carolina top receiver Kelvin Benjamin go down with a season-ending ACL tear only reinforced to Hankerson how quickly things can turn for the worse.

“That’s a tough situation,” Hankerson said of Benjamin. “The NFL, it's like a band of brothers. You want everybody to come out healthy. Unfortunately, it’s a tough sport. When something like that happens, you hate to see it. At the same time, you’ve got to have each and everybody protecting each other. But it’s just the nature of the game.”

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