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Report: Kicker Joey Slye is designated to return from IR ahead of the Cowboys game

Kicker #3 could return Sunday; no news yet on Kicker #4, Brian Johnson

Seattle Seahawks v Washington Football Team Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images

A Washington Post writer is reporting that Joey Slye, who has been on IR since Week 12 when he tried to chase down Rasheem Green of the Seahawks following a blocked extra point attempt on Monday Night Football, has been designated to return from IR. Slye’s injury came with less than a minute remaining in the first half in that game against the Seahawks. The kicker was unable to continue, and Washington had to play the entire second half without a placekicker, which made the game...interesting, though the Football Team ultimately won 17-15.

Washington’s kicking situation has been an adventure in 2021. Fans got nervous in the preseason when the Football Team’s longtime kicker, Dustin Hopkins, had a couple of misses. Hopkins had struggled with accuracy while trying to play through a groin injury for several games early in the 2020 season before recovering his form in Week 11, and concerns that arose at that time carried over to the 2021 season. However, this ignored the fact that Hopkins had recovered and played well in the final 7 games (including the postseason) of 2020. Hopkins made 14 of 15 field goal attempts to finish out the 2020 season, and then opened the 2021 season by making 12 of 14 field goal attempts in 6 games.

Over this 14 game stretch, Hopkins made 26 of 29 field goals, for an accuracy rate of 89.7%, putting him among the most accurate field goal kickers in the league during that time. However, the Football Team was losing games and head coach Ron Rivera promised in a press conference to change his approach in an effort to change the direction of the season. He inexplicably chose to cut Dustin Hopkins in favor of Chris Blewitt, a kicker making his first appearance in the NFL regular season. Blewitt hadn’t kicked in a competitive game since 2016 when he was a below-average place kicker at the University of Pittsburgh.

Blewitt’s short tenure in Washington was a disaster. Blewitt was released after having three kicks blocked in his two games. Hopkins, meanwhile, signed with the Chargers, where he has continued to kick well, hitting 12 of 13 field goal attempts, raising his accuracy rate to 90.5% since Week 11 of last season.

Blewitt was replaced by Joey Slye in Week 10, which appeared to be a good move. Slye was a perfect 6-6 on field goals and 5-5 on PAT’s before the blocked extra point attempt against Seattle - the play on which he was injured.

Following Slye’s injury, Washington signed rookie kicker Brian Johnson from the Bears practice squad. Johnson had kicked in 4 games for the New Orleans Saints earlier in the season when Brett Maher was injured. Head coach Ron Rivera said at the time that they had had interest in Johnson earlier in the season, but that he hadn’t been available at the time. Johnson has seen limited duty in three games with Washington, going 2-2 on field goals and 4-5 on extra point attempts (blocked PAT vs Dallas).

Although there has been no official announcement yet, it appears as if coach Rivera will go back to Slye, whom he is familiar with from his time with the Carolina Panthers. Joey Slye kicked for the Panthers from 2019-2020, and was Rivera’s kicker during his final season with the team. Hopefully this will be another positive step towards returning to the consistent complementary football that Washington played in its four-game winning streak from Week 10 to Week 13, when the Football Team played its best football of the season.

Washington’s next game will be in Dallas on Sunday Night Football. The team faces a must-win situation if they hope to finish the regular season with a winning record and make the playoffs.