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The Redskins could have an advantage with a less 'accurate' kicker

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The Redskins could have an advantage with a less 'accurate' kicker

Why would the Redskins cut an accurate field goal kicker like Kai Forbath?

It could not have been an easy call for Jay Gruden and Scot McCloughan to make. The 2015 Redskins are likely to be in a lot of close games and Forbath has come through for Gruden. Last year, three of the team’s four wins came on Forbath field goals either in the late going or in overtime.

But Forbath's field goal accuracy came at a cost. Forbath has struggled with his kickoffs during his NFL career. Last year he was 31st in the league in both percentage of kicks that went for touchbacks and average net kickoff distance.

“We were looking for a little bit of a stronger leg, especially on kickoffs,” he said. “That’s the bottom line.”

But is Gruden potentially trading points for touchbacks? While we don’t know how new kicker Dustin Hopkins will do since he has no regular season NFL experience, if he can kick touchbacks consistently, the Redskins could be ahead of the game if he is even a below-average field goal kicker.

First of all, let’s dispose of the notion that Forbath is one of the most accurate field goal kickers in the game. Last year he was ninth in the NFL among kickers who had enough attempts (16) to qualify. He was good on 24 of 27 attempts, 88.9 percent. That’s fine, but not great (six kickers were over 90 percent) and, really, not very significant. Here’s why.

Let’s look at the Rams’ Greg Zuerlein, who ranked 26th with a field goals success percentage of 80.0. Is Forbath a better field goal kicker? Well, if Zuerlein had the same number of attempts as Forbath last year, he would have made 22, two fewer than Forbath. Depending on when those missed field goals happened, they could have been costly.

But if you look closer, you’ll see that Zuerlein attempted seven field goals of 50 yards or longer and made five of them. Forbath had zero attempts from 50 or longer. So two of Zurlein’s misses came on kicks that Forbath didn’t even attempt, presumably because they were out of his range. In the third quarter against the Dolphins, the Redskins were up 10-7 and had a fourth down at the Miami 36. With Forbath as their kicker, they punted and got a touchback. With a kicker with a stronger leg like Zuerlein they could have tried a 54-yard field goal and would have had about a 71 percent chance of taking a 13-7 lead that would have changed the complexion of the rest of the game.

Let’s look at the factor that Gruden cited, kickoffs. Last year Forbath had a net kickoff average (gross yards minus return yards and touchbacks X 20 yards) of 40.7 yards. Zuerlein’s average was 44.6. Rounding to the nearest yard line, an average Forbath kickoff ended with the other team taking possession at the 24 while Zuerlein’s ended up at the 20. Big deal? On one individual kick, maybe not. Over the course of a season it adds up.

According to some numbers crunchers who are much smarter than I am, a team that starts a drive that starts on the 24 has a 17.6 percent chance of scoring a touchdown and a 10.9 percent chance of making a field goal. For a team starting on the 20, the TD chances are 16.4 percent and 10.1 for a field goal. The average NFL team kicked off 81 times last year. So on average, following kickoffs the team that kicks to the 24 will allow 14 touchdowns and nine field goals while the team that kicks to the 20 will allow 13 TDs and eight field goals.

You don’t have to be a genius numbers cruncher to figure out that the defense giving up 10 fewer points with a kicker like Zuerlein slightly more than compensates for the six points lose being less “accurate” in field goals than Forbath. If you add in the chance that Zuerlein gives the team to score on an attempt from over 50 yards out the advantage goes to the less “accurate” kicker with the stronger leg.

Looking at it right now, we don’t know if Hopkins will miss a makeable field goal in a clutch situation. But in the big picture, if he can hit on 80 percent of his field goals, give the Redskins a chance to score when they get inside the opponent’s 40, and have opponents starting drives at the 20 more often than not, the move could end up being a net plus for Gruden and the Redskins.

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Redskins activate K Dustin Hopkins, waive K Nick Rose

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USA TODAY Sports

Redskins activate K Dustin Hopkins, waive K Nick Rose

After missing the last eight games, the Redskins brought back place-kicker Dustin Hopkins from the injured reserve and waived Nick Rose.

Hopkins became eligible to return from the IR this week and took part in practice all week. Jay Gruden wouldn't commit to one kicker or the other when he spoke earlier in the week, but the decision came down on Saturday.

Rose played well in Hopkins' absence, making 10 of 11 field goals including a 55-yarder. The rookie Rose had some struggles with extra points, missing two of his 20 attempts, though neither snap/hold combination was totally clean either. 

RELATED: REDSKINS-CARDINALS PREVIEW

Hopkins has the stronger leg and is capable of booting the ball out of the end zone on seemingly every kickoff. With Rose as kicker, at times the Redskins deployed a different strategy where kicks were aimed for the goal line, forcing a return. 

Washington's kicker for parts of the last three seasons, Hopkins has a career 84 percent field goal conversion rate and 94.6 percent conversion rate on extra points in 36 games. 

The Redskins sent Hopkins to the IR after a Week 6 win over the 49ers with a right hip rotator muscle injury. 

MORE REDSKINS: SLOW STARTS HAVE BEEN KILLING THE REDSKINS

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Week 15 Redskins vs Cardinals Preview: Show up, or get blown up

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Week 15 Redskins vs Cardinals Preview: Show up, or get blown up

For the second consecutive game, the Redskins got blown out on the road. First in Dallas, then in Los Angeles, Jay Gruden's team is reeling with mounting questions and pressures about 2018 and beyond. 

The best way to calm down the flames? Get a win.

Washington will have that chance on Sunday at 1 p.m. (full coverage on NBC Sports Washington at noon) when they host the Arizona Cardinals. Getting the victory won't be easy, however, no matter how bad the Redskins need it. 

  1. Turn the page - The Redskins have lost their last two games by a combined score of 68-27. The results have been terrible, and the outcome in Los Angeles could have been much uglier had the Chargers not pulled starting QB Philip Rivers. Still, those games are over, and Washington needs to focus on the Cardinals. Gruden spoke this week that his team cannot "wallow" in the past two losses. If the Redskins are looking back at their lost season, instead of looking squarely at Arizona, another blowout loss is likely to come. 
  2. Get it going - Kirk Cousins and the Redskins offense had by far their worst statistical output last week in LA. The offense must get back on track, and that means a better performance from Cousins and the 'Skins run game. Against the Chargers, Washington generated only 201 total yards and just nine first downs. Nine, their second worst total since having only 15 first downs against the Cowboys the week before. At this stage of the season, the Redskins defense will not win this team any games. The offense must do it, and that means improved play from the line, the quarterback and the skill positions. 
  3. Make a play - Turnovers can win or lose games, and in their last two blowout losses, it's no surprise the Redskins have been on the wrong end of the ledger. Washington has five turnovers in their last two games, and has generated only one takeaway in that span. (It can be argued that shouldn't even count, as it came on an interception from Chargers backup Kellen Clemens in the final minutes of a blowout.) Washington ranks dead last in the NFL in points per game allowed, and that won't improve with linebacker Zach Brown out this weekend. Generating turnovers, particularly against Arizona QB Blaine Gabbert, should be the defensive focus. 

Quote of the Week: Jay Gruden, asked about preparation before the Chargers game-

We didn't spend last week playing checkers.

News & Notes:

  • Gabbert has been sacked 15 times in the Cardinals last two games. Washington comes into Week 15 with the 13th most sacks in the league.
  • The Cardinals defense ranks in the Top 10 in yards per play, yards per game, and rush yards per game. Despite that, Arizona's defense ranks 25th in points allowed. 
  • D.J. Swearinger, who played for Arizona last season before signing in Washington as a free agent, is tied for fourth in the NFC in interceptions.
  • Jordan Reed won't be playing this week, or the remainder of the season. Washington moved Reed to the injured reserve this week. 
  • Arizona coach Bruce Arians was a college quarterback at Virginia Tech from 1972 to 1974.

Want more? Listen up!

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