When the Washington Redskins cut the cord with Graham Gano late in the preseason, they signaled the end of a young kicker experiment. They invested two-plus seasons in Gano’s potential but jumped at Billy Cundiff when the Baltimore Ravens released the veteran.
But when Cundiff struggled, the Redskins went back to youth Tuesday and signed Kai Forbath, who has an impressive college pedigree but no NFL experience.
While at UCLA, Forbath won the Lou Groza Award as the nation’s top kicker in 2009. During his college career he made 85 of 104 attempts, yet he went undrafted in 2011.
Since then, a quadriceps injury kept him from kicking for the Dallas Cowboys, and even a 5-for-5 preseason with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers couldn’t land him a job until this week.
“I’ve talked to a lot of kickers in the league and it’s taken them team to team to team to stay on teams,” Forbath said Wednesday. “Two years, I’m not complaining about that.”
Forbath, 25, has yet to attempt a kick in a regular-season NFL game. Sunday against the Minnesota Vikings, he could become the 15th different player to attempt a field goal for the Redskins since 2000, the most in the league during that time.
Forbath is aware of the Redskins’ revolving door of kickers.
“I am, and I’m hoping to stay here for a long time,” he said.
Cundiff hoped for that too. The Redskins cut the 32-year-old after he 7-for-12 this season, including a crucial miss from 31 yards out in the Week 5 loss to the Atlanta Falcons.
Asked after the game if he was worried about job security, Cundiff said: “No. It’s not my job to worry, to be perfectly honest with you. It’s my job to focus on what I do and make kicks.”
That’s Forbath’s idea, too. He wasn’t worried about beating out veterans Olindo Mare and Josh Brown during Tuesday’s competition for the Redskins gig and isn’t concerned about Sunday’s debut.
“Go out there and do what I’ve been doing for the last eight years I’ve been kicking,” Forbath said. “Just focus on my technique and not worry about any of the pressure.”
The pressure could be on most for kicks 50 yards or longer, given that Gano had a career best of 59 yards and that Cundiff missed from 62 and 57. Forbath’s college best was 54 yards.
“It’s something that’s always been in my game, and I work on that just as much as I work on short ones,” he said. “I don’t expect to miss any long ones, just kick them just like PATs.”
Having not kicked off in college, that’s an element of his game that Forbath is working on the most. As for trying to pick up timing with long snapper Justin Snow and holder Sav Rocca, he’s not worried.
“We’re going to work on timing and operation today. I’m not one of the kickers that are picky about holds,” Forbath said. “I just say ‘Get it down and I’ll kick it.’ ”