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The Redskins could have an advantage with a less 'accurate' kicker

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The Redskins could have an advantage with a less 'accurate' kicker

Why would the Redskins cut an accurate field goal kicker like Kai Forbath?

It could not have been an easy call for Jay Gruden and Scot McCloughan to make. The 2015 Redskins are likely to be in a lot of close games and Forbath has come through for Gruden. Last year, three of the team’s four wins came on Forbath field goals either in the late going or in overtime.

But Forbath's field goal accuracy came at a cost. Forbath has struggled with his kickoffs during his NFL career. Last year he was 31st in the league in both percentage of kicks that went for touchbacks and average net kickoff distance.

“We were looking for a little bit of a stronger leg, especially on kickoffs,” he said. “That’s the bottom line.”

But is Gruden potentially trading points for touchbacks? While we don’t know how new kicker Dustin Hopkins will do since he has no regular season NFL experience, if he can kick touchbacks consistently, the Redskins could be ahead of the game if he is even a below-average field goal kicker.

First of all, let’s dispose of the notion that Forbath is one of the most accurate field goal kickers in the game. Last year he was ninth in the NFL among kickers who had enough attempts (16) to qualify. He was good on 24 of 27 attempts, 88.9 percent. That’s fine, but not great (six kickers were over 90 percent) and, really, not very significant. Here’s why.

Let’s look at the Rams’ Greg Zuerlein, who ranked 26th with a field goals success percentage of 80.0. Is Forbath a better field goal kicker? Well, if Zuerlein had the same number of attempts as Forbath last year, he would have made 22, two fewer than Forbath. Depending on when those missed field goals happened, they could have been costly.

But if you look closer, you’ll see that Zuerlein attempted seven field goals of 50 yards or longer and made five of them. Forbath had zero attempts from 50 or longer. So two of Zurlein’s misses came on kicks that Forbath didn’t even attempt, presumably because they were out of his range. In the third quarter against the Dolphins, the Redskins were up 10-7 and had a fourth down at the Miami 36. With Forbath as their kicker, they punted and got a touchback. With a kicker with a stronger leg like Zuerlein they could have tried a 54-yard field goal and would have had about a 71 percent chance of taking a 13-7 lead that would have changed the complexion of the rest of the game.

Let’s look at the factor that Gruden cited, kickoffs. Last year Forbath had a net kickoff average (gross yards minus return yards and touchbacks X 20 yards) of 40.7 yards. Zuerlein’s average was 44.6. Rounding to the nearest yard line, an average Forbath kickoff ended with the other team taking possession at the 24 while Zuerlein’s ended up at the 20. Big deal? On one individual kick, maybe not. Over the course of a season it adds up.

According to some numbers crunchers who are much smarter than I am, a team that starts a drive that starts on the 24 has a 17.6 percent chance of scoring a touchdown and a 10.9 percent chance of making a field goal. For a team starting on the 20, the TD chances are 16.4 percent and 10.1 for a field goal. The average NFL team kicked off 81 times last year. So on average, following kickoffs the team that kicks to the 24 will allow 14 touchdowns and nine field goals while the team that kicks to the 20 will allow 13 TDs and eight field goals.

You don’t have to be a genius numbers cruncher to figure out that the defense giving up 10 fewer points with a kicker like Zuerlein slightly more than compensates for the six points lose being less “accurate” in field goals than Forbath. If you add in the chance that Zuerlein gives the team to score on an attempt from over 50 yards out the advantage goes to the less “accurate” kicker with the stronger leg.

Looking at it right now, we don’t know if Hopkins will miss a makeable field goal in a clutch situation. But in the big picture, if he can hit on 80 percent of his field goals, give the Redskins a chance to score when they get inside the opponent’s 40, and have opponents starting drives at the 20 more often than not, the move could end up being a net plus for Gruden and the Redskins.

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Need to Know: Another big day on the ground on tap for the Redskins?

Need to Know: Another big day on the ground on tap for the Redskins?

Here is what you need to know on this Sunday, December 11, eight days before the Washington Redskins host the Carolina Panthers.

Timeline

Today's schedule: Redskins vs. Eagles 1 p.m.

Days until: Panthers @ Redskins 8; Redskins @ Bears Christmas Eve 13; Giants @ Redskins, New Year’s Day 21

Injuries of note:
Out:
G Long (concussion), S Blackmon (concussion), DE Lanier (leg)
Limited: TE Reed (shoulder), G Scherff (ankle), DE Jean Francois (knee/foot), DE Baker (ankle), G Shawn Lauvao (groin)
Final injury report

Final thoughts on Redskins vs Eagles

—The Redskins have not stopped a team in a goal to go situation since September. The Eagles are good in such situations, converting TDs 84 percent of the time. If the Redskins can get a stop and force a field goal try when the first time the Eagles get down there that would be a big psychological boost for the visitors. Or, better yet, maybe they can just not let the Eagles get any first and goal opportunities. That’s what happened when the teams played in Week 6.

—In that Week 6 meeting the Redskins rushed for 230 yards, their best performance on the ground this season by 79 yards. Matt Jones picked up 135 yards on 16 attempts, Rob Kelley had 5-59, and Chris Thompson kicked in with 9-37. It’s unlikely that Jones will be active so it will be up to Kelley to get things rolling on the ground.

—For all the talk about Kirk Cousins having the Eagles’ number, he had one of his worst statistical games of the year against them in Week 6. He completed just 52.9 percent of his passes, his lowest completion percentage of the season. Cousins also threw perhaps his worst interception of the year, a pick six that tied the game at 14 in the second quarter. The bottom line was that he made some plays and the Redskins won but he likely will have to play better this time for his team to prevail today.

—Carson Wentz has six interceptions in his last three games, including three last week against the Bengals. Josh Norman is due to get an interception, overdue, in fact. Don’t know what will happen but the chances seem good that a Redskin will get his hands on a Wentz pass today.

—We saw last week that the Redskins are not a lock to go on the road and win against a team that is desperately fighting for its playoff life. Fortunately for the Redskins, the Eagles do not have players who are the equals of David Johnson, Larry Fitzgerald, and Patrick Peterson. While plenty can go wrong I think the Redskins come away with with the win.

Redskins 28, Eagles 24

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Redskins bring former starting center back to active roster

Redskins bring former starting center back to active roster

The Redskins officially brought Kory Lichtensteiger back to the active roster, and while the move is now for depth, it could have other ramifications down the road. 

The move is on the NFL's transaction report for Saturday. To make room for Lichtensteiger, the team released defensive lineman A.J. Francis. 

Dealing with injuries up and down the line of scrimmage, Lichtensteiger's return could give the offensive front more flexibility. When Lichtensteiger got injured Week 3 and sent to the injured reserve, third-year pro Spencer Long stepped in and performed well at center. Last week in Arizona, Long sustained a concussion.

That injury opened the door for John Sullivan, who will start this week in Philadelphia with Long ruled out. Sullivan was brought in as a backup to Long once Lichtensteiger was put on IR. With Long now in the NFL concussion protocol, the Redskins need another center should Sullivan get hurt. Alas, Lichtensteiger's return from the IR. 

Left guard Shawn Lauvao also sustained an injured groin, and that's where things could get interesting. Long is capable of playing guard, as is Lichtensteiger in a pinch. Should Lauvao's injury persist, Lichtensteiger might be able to help there.

Against the Eagles, the plan certainly appears to be second-year man Arie Kouandjio starting in place of Lauvao. Kouandjio made one earlier start this season - Week 4 against Cleveland - and the results were mixed.

If Kouandjio stumbles and Lauvao needs more time, Lichtensteiger's return to the roster gives Jay Gruden and Bill Callahan more flexibility, especially when Long returns from injury.

In fact, once the team has Long, Lichtensteiger and Sullivan healthy, there could be a bit of a logjam roster-wise on the offensive line, but considering all the injuries, bumps and bruises that are part of O-line life by the last four games of the season, the Redskins staff likely won't mind figuring that out. 

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