Longtime friends Dustin Hopkins, Zach Hocker battling to be Saints kicker

WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W.Va. -- The competition between New Orleans Saints kickers Dustin Hopkins and Zach Hocker is so intense, it has even raged on during their sleep while they've been rooming together during training camp.

"The first night, he did snore pretty bad, and I told him he was out to get me," Hocker quipped.

In truth, though, the rivalry is about as friendly as it can get between two guys battling for just one precious roster spot.

Hopkins, 24, and Hocker, 23, have been friends for seven or eight years, dating back to when they first met as high schoolers at a Jamie Kohl kicking camp in Wisconsin.

Under any other circumstances, each would be rooting for the other to crack his first NFL roster.

"Getting close through the process has made this competition pretty fun," Hocker said. "But at the end of the day, we both understand that one guy's gonna have the job. And we're gonna do the most we can to make it the toughest decision on the coaches.

"If we're both in the league next year, we're both getting what we want."

Though they don't have any regular-season NFL experience, both kickers have impressive resumes.

Hopkins set NCAA records for career field goals and points by a kicker at Florida State before being drafted in the sixth round by the Buffalo Bills in 2013. He made all six of his field goal attempts in that first preseason, but he suffered a groin injury. Then he was cut last summer in favor of veteran Dan Carpenter.

Hocker was a seventh-round pick of the Washington Redskins in 2014 after a standout career at Arkansas. But he lost a close battle with incumbent Kai Forbath after making 2-of-3 field goals last preseason.

From what we've seen so far, Hopkins appears to have a slight early edge. He has a booming leg and powers through every kick. Plus, he's been more consistent during the small sample size of field goals and kickoffs during the first five days of training camp.

But both kickers know that it's far too early to start keeping score -- especially since the four preseason games will be the most critical deciding factor.

"I think both of us notice what the other does every day. But I'm not keeping tallies over the period of camp," Hopkins said. "I just try to maintain my same mindset every kick and not worry about what Zach did.

"Camp is so long and it's so early, it wouldn't be wise for me to tally ‘em up and feel good or bad right now."

Former Saints kicker John Carney, who has worked with the kickers for a few days in both training camp and the June minicamp, said he tells all clients that he works with, "consistency is king in the NFL."

"I think they're both very consistent. And I think that they're both NFL talent and they'll both be kicking in the NFL," Carney said. "I don't think the Saints can make a wrong decision. So it'll be a matter of who gets hot during the preseason and who's hitting a consistent ball day to day."

Carney said Hopkins' big leg isn't the only thing coaches care about -- but it is a "big part of the equation."

"I think you never know what coaches are looking for. They're looking for three points," Hopkins said when asked if his leg strength sets him apart. "As long as I'm making ‘em, it's awesome to have that pop and have that range. But the vast majority of your kicks are gonna be inside of 50.

"I'm just gonna try to kick my ball every kick -- my good A ball -- and worry about what happens after that."