Through six games, Redskins kicker Dustin Hopkins looked like he might be heading to the Pro Bowl. He made his first 12 field goals, and didn't miss a kick until a Week 5 windstorm in Baltimore, opening the year making 15 of 16 field goals. Further, Hopkins proved accurate from deep distances and repeatedly booted the ball out of the end zone on kickoffs.
In the five games since Baltimore, however, Hopkins has begun to struggle. He missed an important kick in Detroit in Week 7 and missed two against the Bengals in London, including an overtime miss that could have won the game.
On Thanksgiving in Dallas, Hopkins missed two more field goals. That makes the former Florida State kicker 10 of his last 15 kicks. Certainly there are lots of extenuating circumstances surrounding some of the kicks — like a 55-yard attempt against the Cowboys directly into the sun.
Hopkins does not care about the circumstances.
"It's unfortunate, just the nature of the business," Hopkins said following the 31-26 loss to the Cowboys.
Redskins players and coaches support Hopkins, and it's not a surprise if you've met the kicker. He stands out as a nice and genuine guy in a locker room with good character.
"I’m not worried about him," Washington coach Jay Gruden said on Thanksgiving. "I have faith that he’s going to make those kicks. I see him do it every day in practice."
Backing up Gruden's confidence, Hopkins leads the NFL with 25 made field goals this season. Dig a little deeper, though, and that stat isn't quite as impressive. The Redskins offense struggles in the red zone, which means Hopkins gets a lot of field goal opportunities where other teams might be scoring touchdowns. To that end, the 'Skins also lead the NFL with 31 field goal attempts, four more than any other team.
At 25 of 31, Hopkins is making 80.6 percent of his kicks. That ranks 21st in the NFL. That said, Gruden calls for difficult, deep kicks often, and three of Hopkins' six misses are from 50 yards or greater.
After a poor effort in the Cowboys game, some players might try to avoid the media or make excuses. Hopkins did neither, and that should give Skins fans confidence that the young man can get back to his early season performance.
"I'm paid to make kicks," Hopkins said. Asked specifically if the glaring sun might have been a factor in his long miss in Dallas, Hopkins was clear, "It was unfortunate where the sun was at the time but when I’m looking down at the ball, that’s not an issue. It’s not an excuse."
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