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Questions mounting for Redskins kicker Dustin Hopkins, but he won't make excuses

Questions mounting for Redskins kicker Dustin Hopkins, but he won't make excuses

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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After releasing Martez Carter the Redskins are thin at running back

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Associated Press

After releasing Martez Carter the Redskins are thin at running back

The Redskins are very thin at running back right now. 

Today at practice the Redskins had three running backs on the field. Rob Kelley and Kapri Bibbs are fully healthy while Chris Thompson is limited as he recovers from a broken leg he suffered last November. 

Injuries have hit the depth at running back. The most recent casualty was Martez Carter, who was waived with an injury designation. 

The move was surprising since Carter had some good runs against the Jets during their preseason game on Thursday and he did not appear to be injured during the game. 

Coach Jay Gruden did not offer any more details as to what the injury to Carter was, only that he is no longer with the team. 

Also sidelined with lower leg injuries are Samaje Perine and Byron Marshall. According to media reports, Perine will be out one week and Marshall for two to four. Gruden would not confirm the timelines, saying only that they are undergoing treatment and the timetable for their returns in unknown. 

The Redskins will bring in some running backs to try out on Sunday. They will need at least one and probably two in order to get through the upcoming preseason game against the Broncos on Friday. 

In other personnel moves, the Redskins waived linebacker Jeff Knox and defensive end Jalen Wilkerson and signed offensive tackle Kendall Calhoun, defensive back Darius Hillary, and wide receiver Allenzae Staggers. 

More Redskins news

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-AnalysisFive Redskins-Jets observations

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page, Facebook.com/TandlerNBCS and follow him on Twitter  @TandlerNBCS and on Instagram @RichTandler

 

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RB roster battle is fun to watch, but injuries will force tough decisions

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USA Today Sports

RB roster battle is fun to watch, but injuries will force tough decisions

Too much attention gets paid to roster construction during training camp. Projecting the 53-man roster has become its own August cottage industry, much like Bracketology flourishes in March.

The truth of the matter is regardless of projections, more than anything else, injuries dictate what players ultimately land on the Week 1 roster. 

Right now, that is apparent with the Redskins' running back position. Derrius Guice headlined the group after Washington grabbed him in the second round of April's NFL Draft. After injuring his knee in the first preseason game, however, Guice won't play in 2018. 

That means the other five guys battling for a spot now move up in the pecking order. Rob Kelley and Chris Thompson will make the team, even though Thompson is yet to play in the preseason and is still battling back from a broken leg last November. 

Samaje Perine, Byron Marshall, and Kapri Bibbs played with the 'Skins last season and were locked in a tense battle for spots. Then, Perine and Marshall got hurt Thursday night. Perine is expected to miss a week, while Marshall could miss up to four weeks. 

Can both Perine and Marshall still make the Redskins 53-man roster? 

Of course. 

Is that a certainty? Definitely not. 

Bibbs gets a major opportunity now, and he has looked good so far in camp and preseason games. Additionally, for Bibbs, it often gets lost that he actually played well in Washington last season. In three games he had more than 200 yards from scrimmage and a touchdown. 

If Marshall truly needs a month to get his lower leg injury settled, that won't be until after the deadline to trim rosters. The Redskins could move him to the injured reserve list before then, but that would mean Marshall would not be eligible to play for the Burgundy and Gold until Week 7. Also, the team only gets two moves off of IR for the season. Would they want to use one on their fourth running back?

Perine's injury situation seems less severe, and barring a setback or further injury, he will be on the roster. 

That means Thompson, Kelley, Perine, and Bibbs. Maybe Marshall too, but that will be determined by his rehab schedule. 

Martez Carter made impressive runs against the Jets, and while it seems easy to dismiss his roster candidacy, remember Rob Kelley was an undrafted free agent out of a small Louisiana school just a few years ago.

Complicating matters is the reality that Washington's front office is absolutely going to be watching what other NFL teams do at roster cut time. Other running backs could emerge, especially from teams like Detroit that already have a crowded running back room and added more players via the draft. 

Coaches like to say competition on the field is what makes roster decisions. And yes, that's a big part of it. The violent nature of the NFL, the ultimate Next Man Up league, plays a huge factor as well. 

Trimming a roster because of injuries doesn't mean there aren't mistakes made. It sure looks like Washington screwed up last year by cutting QB Nate Sudfeld, even though the team felt compelled to keep extra offensive linemen. 

It might be trite, but the NFL is a long, grueling season. The Redskins know that. The team lost more players to injury than any other NFL squad last season. 

So when looking at 53-man roster projections, know there are two more preseason games left, and sad but likely, more injuries to come. 

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