Will Blackmon, Derek Carrier and Dustin Hopkins all play on different units for the Redskins. But they’ve got one thing in common: each has made a significant impact during the first seven weeks, despite not being on the roster at the outset of training camp.
“It’s not easy to come in here—you miss all of training camp and all of OTAs [and] all the mental gymnastics we go through to get guys ready to play,” Coach Jay Gruden said this week. “They came in late. They have to pick up the system in a hurry. Both [Blackmon and Carrier] have done that. [And] you can’t say enough about our kicker, Hopkins. I mean what he’s done, taking over for an established kicker.”
Carrier was the first of the three to arrive in Ashburn, Va., acquired Aug. 21 from the 49ers in exchange for a fifth round pick in 2016. The 25-year-old has started all seven games and hauled in 12 passes (on 14 targets) for 107 yards, a touchdown and three first downs. He’s also notched a special teams tackle.
Blackmon and Hopkins, meanwhile, signed as free agents within a day of each another following the season-opening loss to Miami.
Blackmon, a nine-year NFL veteran, played only five snaps in his Redskins’ debut. But as the injuries have mounted and his comfort level has grown, the 31-year-old has become a regular in the secondary. In fact, he’s started the past three games, playing all but three snaps against the Falcons, Jets and Buccaneers. (Only Bashaud Breeland has played more at corner than Blackmon.)
The biggest surprise, though, has been Hopkins, who replaced Kai Forbath prior to Week 2. The 25-year-old is 11-of-12 on field goals, including 2-of-3 from 50 or more yards out. Just as important, Hopkins has forced touchbacks on 71 percent of his kickoffs—the sixth best mark in the league.
“We’ve had some guys come in off the streets that have produced,” Gruden said. “We’ve needed them to. It’s going to help our depth later on down the road when we do get our players back. So it’s going to be exciting when our players get healthy and these guys will provide us with great depth.”
Gruden added: “They’ve shown they can play.”