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Technique Important To Catching Passes On Seattle’s Tall Defensive Backs

By ZAC BOYER

zboyer@freelancestar.com | @ZacBoyer

ASHBURN – The tallest receiver on the Washington Redskins, Leonard Hankerson hasn’t often faced a defensive back that stands taller than he does.

Hankerson

But Hankerson, at 6-foot-2, can remember facing one in the Senior Bowl two years ago – a rangy, 6-foot-3 cornerback from Stanford who would later be drafted in the fifth round by Seattle.

The rules of the all-star game didn’t permit defensive backs to play press coverage and be physical with receivers. Now, nearly three years later, Hankerson and that cornerback, Richard Sherman, will introduce themselves to each other on Sunday when the Seahawks face the Redskins in the wild card round of the NFC playoffs.

Sherman won’t be the only cornerback posing a physical challenge to the Redskins. Brandon Browner is even taller at 6-foot-4, and the Seahawks’ starting strong safety, Earl Thomas, stands 6-foot-3.

“They’re really tall,” Seattle head coach Pete Carroll said. “They’re really long. Both guys have a real knack for the position as well. They’re not just tall guys out there playing. They both have a style and they’re different, but they have a style that allows them to be aggressive and a factor on players they play against.”

Sherman has a career-high eight interceptions this season, which is tied for the second in the NFL, and has broken up 24 passes. Browner has three interceptions and has forced a fumble, while Thomas, selected to the Pro Bowl for the second consecutive season, also has three interceptions.

Both Sherman and Browner intercepted Redskins quarterback Rex Grossman last season in the Redskins’ 23-17 victory.

But rookie Robert Griffin III has thrown only five interceptions this season, which is tied for the second-fewest amongst quarterbacks who started at least seven games.

“I think our receivers can compete with everybody – every game, any team,” offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan said. “It will be a challenge with these guys because they’re very good players.”

Hankerson did not play against Seattle last season as he tore the labrum in his left hip earlier in the month. But to him, the secret to beating the Seahawks’ secondary as the same as it is with any other team the Redskins would face.

“You’ve got to go in with the same mindset that you’ve still got to get open, you’ve still got to beat the guy in front of you, still got to move your eyes,” Hankerson said. “That doesn’t really change. It’s just about you getting open, you staying technical. You’ve just got to go out there and make it happen.”

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