When the Redskins open the preseason Thursday in Buffalo, a number of players who are engaged in position battles will get their first chance to make an impression.Incumbent kicker Graham Gano is one of them.Through two weeks of training camp, Gano has acquitted himself well as he attempts to fend off Neil Rackers, the veteran signed this offseason to challenge him. Gano and Rackers both are unofficially 16 for 19 in the three head-to-head field goal competitions thus far.But, as Gano and special teams Coach Danny Smith conceded this week, practice means relatively little when determining which kicker makes the 53-man roster. It really will come down to what transpires during the teams four preseason contests, beginning with the Bills.Thats what separates everybody; its execution under pressure, Smith said Thursday in his first public comments since training camp began. Were going put them in those pressure situations and see who executes the best.Smith said his biggest challenge as a position coach will be to ensure that both Gano and Rackers get equal opportunity to show what they can do. To accomplish that, Smith said he plans to have the player who kicks a field goal or point after to also take the ensuing kickoff, as to simulate a normal game routine.On Thursday, Gano will go first if the Redskins kickoff to start the game, Smith said. If not, it will depend on which kicker finished the first half.By the end of the four exhibitions, Smith said it will be obvious to everyone which kicker has the edge.Its going to be on production, solely, Smith said.Gano would seem to have the advantage entering the preseason. At 25 years old, hes 10 years younger than Rackers. Hes got the stronger leg and is familiar to the coaching staff after spending the previous three seasons in Washington.That said, Gano connected on 75.6 percent of his field goals, which ranked 29th in the NFL. That number, of course, was negatively impacted by five blocked attempts.I met with the coaches and they said there wasnt anything I could do anything about it personally, Gano said of the blocks. You dont want blocks at all. But last year, thats the past.Smith declined to say what exactly went haywire on so many attempts in 2011. He did, however, concede that there was plenty of blame to be spread around, beginning with him.We had a lot of issues, to be honest, Smith said.If Gano is going to retain his job, Smith said he wants to see more consistency and focus.Day in and day out you got to do it, Smith said. Just because we do it for a couple years doesnt mean we have it. As a coach in this league, you get new coaches and they get their first contract and they think they arrived. I dont think they arrived until you get another contract. Its the same with a kicker.As for Gano, he said hes not feeling any additional pressure because he used to fighting for his job in camp.But he also said he likes his chances.Im feeling pretty good, Gano said. Im starting to hit my stride and Im looking forward to Thursday.
Looking at a weather forecast map that has a yet-unnamed tropical depression set to wreak havoc on the Tampa area starting Thursday afternoon, the Bucs organization called an audible. Working with the NFL and the Redskins, they decided to move the preseason game that was schedule to be played on Thursday to Wednesday.
5am Update: Still a tropical depression. Expected to strengthen to tropical storm as it heads near FL's Big Bend. pic.twitter.com/h04qAfhl6L— Leigh Spann (@WFLALeigh) August 30, 2016
It was really their only choice. A little bad weather doesn’t stop a football game but when things get to the point where the safety of spectators could be in danger and staging the game would tie up police and emergency personnel who would be needed elsewhere you have to make the decision to move it.
Postponing it until Friday was a nonstarter. In addition to the logistics of hotels that may be booked and possible cleanup from the storm going on, NFL teams cut their rosters to 53 by 4 p.m. on Saturday. That would leave the Redskins and Bucs coaches very little time to make their final evaluations.
When the Redskins announced the time change they also noted that their annual Welcome Home Luncheon will be held as scheduled on Wednesday. Although they haven’t yet announced their plans it appears that they will go straight from the event to the airport. They will get off of the plane in Tampa, bus to the stadium, play the game, then get back on the bus to the airport, and head back to Dulles.
This all creates a bit of a disruption to everyone’s schedule but if it’s going to happen, it’s better for it to happen at this time of year. Teams really aren’t in any sort of routine now with preseason games scheduled at varying times during the week. There is minimal concern for playing games too close together since most of the players who will participate in the game tomorrow played sparingly last Friday against the Bills.
MORE REDSKINS: Who has the upper hand at left guard?
The Redskins and Buccaneers are going to wrap up their preseason earlier than the other 30 teams in the NFL, thanks to some inclement weather that's heading toward Tampa Bay.
According to ESPN's Adam Schefter, the matchup between the two NFC squads has been bumped up a day to try and avoid what looks like a lot of precipitation and winds in Florida, courtesy of Tropical Depression Nine:
Tampa Bay's game vs Washington is being moved to Wednesday because of incoming weather, league source tells ESPN.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) August 30, 2016
Washington sent out this tweet in response to the news:
We support the decision made by the Buccaneers and the NFL. We look forward to our game on Wednesday. https://t.co/LtR7zlbbt8— Washington Redskins (@Redskins) August 30, 2016
"It has become apparent that the most severe weather associated with Tropical Depression Nine will likely make landfall on Thursday," said Buccaneers Chief Operating Officer Brian Ford, according to the Bucs' website. "This decision was made by both teams in conjunction with the National Football League and local authorities in an effort to ensure the safety of our fans, players and stadium staff."
The exhibition finale is slated to start at 8 p.m. Redskins Kickoff will air on CSN at 7 p.m., with Redskins Extra following the matchup.
Get ready for some Hump Day Football.
RELATED: JOSH DOCTSON APPEARS SET TO RETURN
Earlier this month at training camp, Nick Sundberg complimented Dustin Hopkins' "huge vert" and admired his "great hand-eye coordination" in an effort to publicize that the Redskins kicker is as athletic as they come. Unfortunately, it appears that Sundberg forgot at least one key skill in Hopkins' repertoire: The ability to hit mammoth taters off of helpless little kids.
Check out this gem of a video that the 25-year-old tweeted out on Monday night:
That poor whippersnapper served that pitch up on a platter along with a note that said, "Please annihilate me." Hopkins obliged. That ball is probably still going.
Next time, the youngsters should skip over baseball and propose a game of hide and seek instead. And the pitcher should spearhead that proposal.