I’ve been as vocal as anyone, since the pre-season, about the need to bring in some kicking competition for Dustin Hopkins. He struggled at times last season, and this year, in the pre-season, and I asked, “Can the WFT do better than Dustin Hopkins?”
Washington could certainly do worse than Hopkins, but the real question now is, can it do better?
The team ignored the pleas for kicking competition in the pre-season until virtually the very end. In early September, they finally brought Eddy Pineiro in for a tryout, and I profiled the young kicker, applauding the move - perhaps naively - as a genuine gesture of competition on the part of the coaching staff. I again made it clear that I wasn’t calling for a unilateral jettisoning of Hopkins without a better Plan B already in place:
The hope all pre-season has been not that Dustin Hopkins would be cut and cast aside without an alternative plan in place, but instead simply that - like every other position on the roster - the team’s kicking would be benefitted by competition.
So, it might come as something of a surprise that I stand before you today, less than a week after Hopkins missed yet another field goal, saying I think the team made the wrong move by cutting him. But, that’s exactly what I intend to do.
Blowing It Against the Chiefs
The proximate cause for Hopkins replacement is that, up 13 to 10 at the beginning of the second quarter, he missed a 42 yard field goal, allowing the Chiefs to get the ball back at their 24 yard line, and initiate their 21 to 0 dismantling of the Washington Football Team over the course of the next 23 minutes or so.
Yes, Hopkins should have made that field goal. Even by his own, tempered, standards, that was a very makeable kick. But, the larger issue, from my perspective, is that he never should have been rolled out their in the first place. The WFT wasn’t going to beat Pat Mahomes and the Chiefs by piling on field goals - as was aptly demonstrated by them once they woke from their slumber.
Ron Rivera should have been going for it there, on 4th and 6 from the 24 yard line, in order to add another touchdown, and extend his team’s lead to 10. He chose the safe path, and even if he had made it, it would have simply been a speed bump on the Chiefs’ path to overwhelming victory.
But, that wasn’t the only conservative move Ron made on Sunday. Down 24 to 13 - at least two scores - with 10:38 left in the game, Ron decided to punt on 4th and 8 at his own 45 yard line. The Chiefs would proceed to sap the game away, driving 96 yards over 7:18 and scoring another touchdown. As soon as the ball left Tress Way’s foot, the game was as good as over. Somehow, Ron has less faith in his offense than his 32nd ranked defense.
WSH decided to punt to KC from the WSH 45 on 4th & 8 with 10:38 remaining in the 4th while losing 13 to 24.— Surrender Index (@surrender_index) October 17, 2021
With a Surrender Index of 4.96, this punt ranks at the 87th percentile of cowardly punts of the 2021 season, and the 84th percentile of all punts since 1999.
Against the Chiefs, Ron returned to a conservatism that had hamstrung him earlier in the season, but that - strangely - he seemed to be able to shake off for a few weeks before the Kansas City game.
#NFL 4th Down Aggressiveness— Ayush Batra (@bestballstats) October 13, 2021
The #Chargers and new coach Brandon Staley have embraced an aggressive 4th down approach, going for it almost 20% more often than the average NFL team, giving the situation. They also have the best efficiency on 4th downs. #nflverse #CowboysNation pic.twitter.com/wAJfBcAAjh
But Back to Hopkins
For virtually all of his career, Dustin Hopkins has basically been an average NFL kicker. There’s nothing wrong with that, and certainly, it’s better than 1⁄3 to 1⁄2 of the league have at any given time, but it also leaves room for improvement.
Chris Blewitt, Hopkins’ recent replacement, last kicked in a game - in college - in 2016, where, in his senior season, he hit 59% of his field goals. Over his entire college career, he hit 70% of his field goals and 97% of his extra points. Prior to joining the WFT, his only pro experience involved practicing with the Bears in 2019. In my opinion, there’s absolutely nothing to indicate that he’s going to be an improvement over Hopkins. In fact, I suspect he’ll be a downgrade.
That’s not to say there weren’t other, potentially upgraded, options available. Jake Verity, who attracted a ton of attention in the pre-season for the Ravens, currently resides on their practice squad. Verity, in 5 years at East Carolina, hit 76% of his field goals and 98% of his extra points. He’s currently on the Ravens’ practice squad, and could have been poached for a spot on the 53-man roster.
Keith Duncan, who was recently one of the best kickers in collegiate football hit 83% of his field goals at Iowa, and 98% of his extra points. He’s currently a kicking coach for other, aspiring young kickers.
Time will tell whether Blewitt is an upgrade over Hopkins, but like so much going on with this franchise these days, it seems like just another diversionary distraction.
Are you glad to see Dustin Hopkins go?
This poll is closed
I wanted competition for Hopkins, but the team Blewitt.
No, I think it’s a mistake.