Place kicker Kai Forbath entered Sunday’s season opener with the highest career success rate on field goals in Redskins history. But a miss from 46 yards out on Sunday, which followed ongoing inconsistency on kickoffs and a rocky training camp, prompted team officials to make a change.
The Redskins on Monday released Forbath and replaced him with Dustin Hopkins, who most recently kicked for the New Orleans Saints, and had a tryout with the Redskins on Monday, coach Jay Gruden confirmed.
Forbath announced his release via Twitter:
“Just want to thank @Redskins for the last 3 years! Going to miss the amazing redskins nation and all the support!”
Forbath had just entered his fourth season with Washington, and this offseason had signed a one-year restricted free agent tender worth $1.542 million. However, he had a subpar training camp, and during the preseason made four of five field goal attempts while competing with undrafted rookie Ty Long.
Although traditionally accurate on field goals, Forbath has routinely struggled to muster the leg strength that coaches have longed for on kickoffs, averaging 61.7 yards, with only 48 touchbacks on 122 attempts. Gruden said that the lack of a consistent ability to register deep kickoffs prompted the team to part with Forbath more than anything.
“I think Kai is a good kicker for us for a few years now,” the coach explained Monday afternoon. “Very accurate, obviously, inside of 40, but i think moving forward, you look at the total package of what a kicker has to bring to your team, we were looking for a little bit stronger leg, especially on kickoffs. That’s the bottom line. We’ve got 16 regular season games. We’re down 0-1 and we just think for the long haul, we’d like some better kickoffs. We think the new kicker – if he can be close to him on accuracy and field goals – we think the kickoffs could put him over the edge as far as being a little bit better.”
Forbath’s struggles in practice this summer weren’t entirely new. Coach Jay Gruden had acknowledged both last season and this year that a lack of consistency in practices concerned him to a degree. But he described Forbath as “a gamer,” and Washington stuck with the UCLA product. Entering Sunday’s game, Forbath’s success percentage of .881 ranked first in franchise history for kickers with 50 attempts or more.
Forbath had a stellar first season with Washington. Injured for all of 2011, which he spent with Dallas, he signed with the Redskins in 2012 after Billy Cundiff made only 7 of 12 attempts during the first five games of the season. Forbath appeared in 11 games, making 17 consecutive field goals — an NFL record for a first-year kicker — before missing his lone attempt in the regular season finale. Forbath boasted a success percentage of .944 that season.
Forbath’s effectiveness diminished slightly the following season as he made 18 of 22 field goal attempts, but he then made 24 of 27 attempts last season.
Hopkins has never kicked in a regular season NFL game. During the preseason of 2013, the Florida State product made all six field goal attempts, and averaged 66.4 yards per kickoff. However, he didn’t land the team’s top kicking job.
In 2014, Hopkins didn’t attempt a field goal in the preseason, but did average 66.5 yards per kickoff attempt, recording seven touchbacks on 11 kicks.
This preseason, Hopkins made three of five field goal attempts with a long of 27. He averaged 65.5 yards on 13 kickoff attempts and recorded 10 touchbacks. Interestingly enough, it was Zach Hocker, Washington’s seventh-round pick from 2014, who beat out Hopkins after making four of five field goal attempts, with a long of 53. Hocker also averaged 66.0 yards on five kickoffs, four of which went for touchbacks.
Hocker, whom Washington cut last preseason after his offseason- and preseason-long competition with Forbath, made all four field goal attempts in New Orleans’ regular season opener.
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