Gruden still expects kicking competition to last all preseason

Kai Forbath hit a 39-yarder, but is still in a battle for the job. (Katherine Frey/The Washington Post)

Redskins coach Jay Gruden said he will not use one game to make his decision on the winner of the place-kicking job. Instead, the coach maintained that this call will go down to the final preseason game.

Third-year veteran Kai Forbath struggled on Thursday night, missing a 46-yard attempt, sending one kickoff out of bounds, and recording another short kick. (Forbath also missed a 35-yard attempt, but a delay of game penalty gave him a second chance, and he made the ensuing 39-yard attempt.)

Meanwhile, rookie Zach Hocker made two field goals and displayed a strong leg as he booted the opening kick out of the back of the end zone.

“Well, now we’ll look at the tape, but obviously we kicked off one time out of bounds and missed the field goal,” Gruden said. “We got a delay of game [penalty]. [Hocker] had a great couple good kickoffs and a good tackle and made [two] field goals. Kai, you know, he had a kickoff out of bounds, like I said, so that’s a decision that’s going to come after the fourth preseason game.”

Forbath has proven clutch in the last two years, making an NFL-record 17 consecutive field goals for a first-year player. He then made 18 of 22 field goal attempts last season. Leg strength on kickoffs has been an issue, but he has worked to improve. Forbath’s first kick went for a touchback, but then he had a shorter kick, which went to the eight-yard line, and then he had the kick out of bounds.

Forbath was understandably frustrated with himself after the game, and said he needed to improve his focus.

“I’ve got to focus more and make that kick. There’s no excuse for missing those,” he said, later adding. “It’s keeping my eyes back when I make contact with the ball. It’s a split-second thing – a really stupid mistake. Luckily it happened now, in the preseason, rather than when it really counts.”

Zach Hocker had a good game against the Patriots, but didn't earn the kicking job. (Jonathan Newton/The Washington Post)

Zach Hocker had a good game against the Patriots, but didn’t earn the kicking job. (Jonathan Newton/The Washington Post)

Hocker expressed a relief to have his first NFL game out of the way, but noted that he didn’t feel the increased level of pressure that he expected to experience as he made the jump from college to pro football.

“I was actually more relaxed than I anticipated,” the seventh-round pick out of Arkansas said. “It was actually an okay night. I want to improve my touchbacks a little more. But other than that, PAT and field goals were working all right.”

Both Hocker and Forbath noted the difference made by moving the point-after attempt to the 15-yard line.

Hocker momentarily had forgotten until he trotted out after a touchdown and saw the linemen getting set at the 15. He made the 33-yard attempt, however.

Forbath made his point-after attempt as well. But he chuckled and said, “It doesn’t sound like it’s far, but you go back there and it looks a little different than it used to. It definitely can be a game changer for some games. I don’t necessarily know if that’s a good thing, but it’s not going to be automatic like PATs usually are.”

Gruden said despite Hocker’s better showing, he didn’t necessarily take a lead in the competition.

“I don’t know where it’s going to go, there’s really nobody leading right now, it’s going to be down to the wire, I’m sure,” he said.

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