FOXBORO, Mass. — Leonard Hankerson was given a crash course in perhaps the NFL’s most complex offense, so it’s understandable the wide receiver didn’t always appear to know where he was lining up in his debut with the New England Patriots in Week 15.
Hankerson arrived in New England on Wednesday night, practiced Thursday and Friday and then played 10 snaps against the Tennessee Titans filling in for Danny Amendola, who aggravated a previous knee injury.
“You can’t play as fast as you want to,” Hankerson said Tuesday in the Patriots’ locker room. “You can’t run out of the huddle, run to your spot, look at the defense, because you don’t know what to do. It’s going to take time, but it’s coming along. (Tuesday), I did much better. I’ve had a little more time over the weekend, (Monday). It’s coming.”
Many receivers have issues with the Patriots offense even after spending an entire offseason with the playbook. If Amendola and Julian Edelman can’t play Sunday against the New York Jets, Hankerson might need to be counted on, despite his lack of experience in the offense.
“Trying to cram everything into a couple days,” Hankerson said. “Usually, the playbook, you learn it in OTAs and minicamp, but me, I have to learn it quick. I’ve been here since Wednesday night, so I’m trying. It’s only been a couple days. I’ve been trying to learn the whole playbook, staying up all night and trying to get it down.”
Hankerson has his wife and three kids with him in New England, which makes getting rest even more difficult for the 26-year-old wideout.
Fortunately, he’s receiving help from his fellow Patriots, including running back James White, a former teammates at St. Thomas Aquinas High School in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., while learning the playbook, which Hankerson said can’t really be simplified.
“All of them,” Hankerson said. “All the receivers, Tom (Brady) himself, the coaching staff. They’ve all been helpful for me whether it’s meeting before practice, after in the locker room.”
The Patriots have Edelman, Amendola, Brandon LaFell and Keshawn Martin ahead of Hankerson on the depth chart. He could give the Patriots a unique element in their offense with his combination of speed, size and route-running ability.
Thumbnail photo via Doug Kyed/NESN