LANDOVER, Md. -- The competition in training camp hasn't separated the kickers, with both missing at times and neither pulling away. However, the Washington Redskins' first preseason game had a winner: rookie Zach Hocker. And it wasn't just because of what he did.
The seventh-round pick from Arkansas had a good night, making both field goals in Thursday's 23-6 preseason opening win against New England. He also made an extra point and had one touchback. Meanwhile, incumbent Kai Forbath left a 46-yard field goal short and wide after making a 39-yarder earlier in the night. He also sent one kickoff out of bounds.
But the winner of this job won't be decided after one game. Though Hocker had the better night, it wasn't so spectacular that he now has a big edge, if any.
“That's a decision that's going to come after the fourth preseason game,” Redskins coach Jay Gruden said. “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.”
Gruden was not happy about Forbath's out-of-bounds kickoff, either. Nor was Forbath for that matter. He was matter-of-fact and still confident after the game.
Forbath is relying on his experience, having made 35 of 40 field goals the past two seasons.
“Obviously things didn't go quite as planned, but that's what the preseason is for,” Forbath said. “We'll get it worked out when it counts. I know I'll go out there and perform like I have been doing. I can only control my kicks. I go out there and make kicks like I have been, that should take care of the rest.”
Hocker's first kickoff was a touchback (with 3.8 seconds of hangtime). Forbath responded with a 39-yard field goal to cap the first series followed by a touchback as well. Actually, it was one of Forbath's best kickoffs all summer, with 4.2 seconds of hangtime.
But he also had a low line drive later in the game that resulted in only a 19-yard return, but with New England starting at the 24-yard line. Not a huge deal, but low-line drive kickoffs often result in dangerous returns. And his next kickoff went out of bounds, giving the Patriots the ball at their own 40.
Kickoffs are a big reason why the Redskins drafted Hocker. His next kickoff (from the 30 after a 5-yard penalty) was fielded at the Patriots' 1 -- it was returned 23 yards. And his final one traveled 8 yards deep in the end zone, but was returned. A holding penalty negated a 47-yard runback, leaving New England on its own 6. Hocker, a former high school safety, actually made a nice form tackle on the play.
“It was OK,” Hocker said of his night. “The hangtime on kickoffs was OK. I want to focus on my distance and placement. I take great pride in [touchbacks]. Having three kickoffs in one game and one touchback is OK, but during the season that's not going to cut it. That's something I want to bring to the team.”
Hocker said he wasn't nervous about his NFL summer debut.
“I was more relaxed than I usually am,” he said. “I know I'm here for a reason and I was content with where I was and very confident taking the field.”