With the Redskins seeking stability at the position, Mike Shanahan said he expects the competition between kickers Graham Gano and Neil Rackers to continue until the very end of the preseason.
Gano is coming off his second full NFL season. Last year, he made 31 of 41 attempts, with five of those misses the result of blocked kicks. To compete with Gano, Washington signed Rackers during the offseason. He is a 13-year veteran who last season made 32 of 38 field goal attempts with the Houston Texans and has a career success rate of .800.
Last week both kickers made all eight field goal attempts in the practice session that was open to the media. On Tuesday, Gano connected on a 57-yard attempt in practice, while Rackers’ try from the same distance bounced off the right upright.
Shanahan said both kickers have done well this spring and will continue to compete in training camp and the preseason.
“We brought Rackers in for a reason: to have competition,” Shanahan said Tuesday. “Rackers has done a good job throughout his career. He’s been in a lot of competitive situations. He’s won the battle in a lot of situations. And Graham needs that competition. I think they both embrace it. I like the way they have been competing thus far, and it will continue through the preseason.”
In his first two seasons with the Redskins, Gano has shown that he has a strong leg on both field goals and kickoffs. Last year, he made a 59-yard field goal attempt – a franchise record. But the Redskins want Gano (73.8 career percentage) to improve his accuracy. Not all of the misses have been Gano’s fault, however. Shanahan said the Redskins are working to correct the protection breakdowns, which stemmed partially from injuries on the field goal unit.
“We have to get better on our protection, first off,” Shanahan said. “We had [five] blocks, and I think the most I’ve ever been with [before last season] was one. So we’re having everybody working out there on the protection scheme: offensive linemen, defensive linemen. It starts with emphasizing that area, an area that we were weak at last year.
“We lost a number of players, but we’re going to get some defensive players playing on that side early, so if we do lose some offensive linemen like we did last year, we’re going to have our best players protecting the field goals and the extra points so we get better in that area.”
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