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Game against the Lions on the line? Here's how Redskins kicker Dustin Hopkins remains steady

Game against the Lions on the line? Here's how Redskins kicker Dustin Hopkins remains steady

Being an NFL kicker is a stressful job. At any moment in a game, your name can be called upon and a mere inch can be the difference-maker between being the hero or villain.

The art of trying to sneak a football through the upright from 50 yards away with the clock winding down, the game on the line and the crowd in your ear isn't for everyone. But Redskins kicker Dustin Hopkins has made a career out of these situations, constantly succeeding in the high-pressure moments.

The key? Staying in the same mindset no matter what is going on.

Take for example the classic last-minute kick. While it is just another attempt, potentially similar to or closer than one made earlier in the game, it comes with different implications. The moment becomes hectic as teams work to beat the clock and get down the field. When the kicker steps on the field, he'll decide whether his team goes home winners or losers. At that moment, things can get overwhelming.

Hopkins, however, sees it as just another kick.

"I don't treat it any different as far as any kick throughout the game," Hopkins said. "I'm not thinking any of those things, good or bad. I'm just trying to stay focused on the moment on hand and doing the same mental cues that typically make the kick successful."

For him, that starts with determining the potential distance of his kick. Throughout the game, Hopkins and his team will take note of how conditions such as wind are impacting the trajectory of kicks. From there, the team sets out to put him in an ideal situation based on the flow of the game.

In these types of games, Hopkins isn't preparing for one specific kick from one specific distance. While analytics and time play a role, anything goes when the game is on the line. As Hopkins explains, the goal may be to attempt a 53-yard try on a day where the wind is causing problems, but a 62-yard field if necessary. So, it's all about sticking with the routine and being prepared to adjust.

After the distance is figured out, Hopkins must then deal with the fateful 'icing' of the kicker, in which the opposing team may call a timeout prior to the kick to try and throw off his rhythm. Though potentially frustrating, Hopkins doesn't let a timeout alter his flow.

"I do a couple dry runs, try to visualize the kick on my own," Hopkins said when describing what he does during the timeout. "Then I just try to recreate the same routine to the ball that any other normal kick would be when I just run on with no timeout or anything."

When it's finally time to attempt the kick, there aren't any worries of the outcome going through Hopkins' head. He just focuses on the movements needed to send it through the upright, and lets his body do the rest. And whether the kick ends positively or negatively, Hopkins carries with him some perspective to show just how calm he remains even while performing a highly stressful job. 

When he walks off the field, he's not the hero or scapegoat to his young son, he's just dad.

"The way he looks at me, or we interact, doesn't change at all based on how I did," Hopkins said. "So having that to go home to is another aspect of keeping me grounded."

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Dwayne Haskins has room to grow in a few areas, but this one might be the most crucial

Dwayne Haskins has room to grow in a few areas, but this one might be the most crucial

Dwayne Haskins is completing just 55-percent of his attempts as a pro quarterback so far, has thrown three touchdowns against seven interceptions and is averaging only 166 yards per start.

All of those numbers hint at how Haskins must grow as a passer in the NFL. However, those aspects are secondary to the area he needs to improve the most as he continues to see action for the Redskins.

The facet of his game that requires the most work is avoiding sacks. Yes, his accuracy and decision-making and choices in the red zone are all important, but none of those things will get better or reveal themselves if No. 7 is lying on his back and looking at the sky as much as he's doing so far.

The rookie has been dropped 22 times in his five appearances as starter, and 26 times overall. According to The Athletic, if you take the rate which Haskins is being sacked at as the team's primary signal caller and extrapolate it over a full schedule, it'd add up to the third-worst total in league history.  

So, yeah, that's extremely troublesome. 

On Wednesday, Haskins explained how his desire to be aggressive is partly causing this issue to be such an issue.

"Sometimes when I'm back there, I'm trying to find things deep or down the field instead of just finding the checkdown in the flat," he said.

As for how to remedy that, the 22-year-old told the media it's about being more aware of his immediate options.

"Just knowing where all my quick elements are when things happen fast and when things get on me," Haskins said.

Of course, each sack is its own entity, and not all of them fall on the guy with the ball. There have been instances this year where Haskins will go down and a replay will show an offensive lineman immediately getting beaten, the kind of sequence that will make any QB vulnerable. Not all of the negative plays are happening because of where Haskins is in his development.

However, to compare, Case Keenum was sacked just 12 times in his eight starts behind the same O-line. That's a significantly lower number.

Just like every other part of Haskins' skill set, this is something that should get sharper with experience. Every Sunday, assuming he gets a lot more, will lead to him becoming more adept at reading defenses, more proficient at adjusting protection calls and more prepared to find his outlet options.  

Keenum has seen all that there is to see in the NFL, while Haskins is just beginning that arduous process.

And, while Bill Callahan admitted he hates seeing the offense plagued by the sacks, the interim coach also detailed something beyond experience that could help Haskins limit them in the future.

"He's not a repetitive guy, a repetitive-mistake player, where you see continually the small mistakes over and over again," Callahan said. "He makes a mistake, he recognizes it, he moves on and you don't see a repetitive error come back into his game. There's been a lot of growth in that respect."

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Clinton Portis among group of NFL players charged by Justice Department with defrauding NFL health care program

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Clinton Portis among group of NFL players charged by Justice Department with defrauding NFL health care program

The Justice Department charged Clinton Portis and nine other former NFL players with defrauding a health care program for retired players.

The news broke Thursday morning when the Eastern District of Kentucky alleged that the retired players submitted fraudulent claims for medical equipment costing between $40,000-50,000 to the Gene Upshaw NFL Player Health Reimbursement Account Plan. 

Former Redskins cornerback and first-round pick Carlos Rogers is also charged along with Robert McCune, John Eubanks, Tamarick Vanover, Ceandris Brown, James Butler, Frederick Bennett, Correll Buckhalter and Etric Pruitt. Joe Horn and Reche Caldwell are also expected to be charged with conspiracy to commit health care fraud.

Portis' attorney Mark Dycio said of the charges (via The Washington Post): "Clinton Portis had no knowledge that his participation in what he believed to be an NFL sanctioned medical reimbursement program was illegal. He is completely taken aback by this indictment and will move forward with the process of clearing his good name and those of his fellow NFL alumni."

According to the indictment, the claims filed between June 2017 and December 2018 totaled $3.9 million and the health care plan paid out more than $3.4 million.

Portis played seven years for the Redskins from 2004 to 2010, rushing for nearly 7,000 yards and 46 touchdowns. He remains a fan favorite and currently works for the Redskins Broadcast Network. 

A Redskins spokesperson was not immediately available for comment. 

Stay tuned as this is a developing story. 

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