There were many unfamiliar faces at Redskins minicamp this spring, from quarterback Robert Griffin III to a new-look secondary and a new kicker.
Graham Gano is not gone, but he’ll have to battle for his job with veteran Neil Rackers.
“It feels good,” said Gano. “I think competition is good for you … I’ve had competition I think every year I’ve been here, so it’s nothing new,” referring to his brief battle with Shayne Graham in 2011.
Gano joined the Redskins late in 2009 after a season in the United Football League, replacing Shaun Suisham. Gano kicked overtime field goals against Green Bay, Tennessee and Jacksonville in 2010 and then converted a 59-yard field goal against San Francisco in 2011 to set a franchise record.
That is the Gano Redskins fans love to see.
Then there’s the Gano Redskins fans don’t look at too fondly.
Gano has a career field goal percentage of 73. In 2011, he went 31 of 41. Granted, five of the 10 misses were blocked. He was 25 of 26 on extra points. At home against Dallas last season, Gano missed a 52-yard field goal attempt in overtime (Dallas went on to win 27-24). He missed another 52-yard field goal in overtime at home against Houston in 2010, and again at home missed 34- and 24-yarders against Tampa Bay in a 17-16 loss.
The Redskins have lost seven games by three points or less over the past two seasons.
Rackers is a different story. He’s been in the league for 12 seasons and has a career field goal percentage of 80. Six of those 12 seasons, he was over 80 percent for field goals, and he’s only had one season of sub-95 percent when kicking extra points. Rackers holds the record for most field goals in a season, 40 in 2005, when he also made the Pro Bowl with Arizona.
Rackers was under fire in Houston last season when he missed six field goals by mid-December (he only missed three all of 2010) including a 50-yarder against Baltimore that ended up short. Doubts arose about his leg strength considering he is 16-24 from 40-plus yards over the last two years.
Rackers has a message for those who doubt his leg strength: “Come out and watch. That’s all.”
He enjoys the competition and sees it as just like anything else.
“I think any competition you go in, you have to view it as just do your best and see who they like,” Rackers said. “We all have got to make all of our kicks because there are 10,000 people waiting to take our job on any day.”
Coach Mike Shanahan explained the reasoning behind bringing in another kicker for the preseason.
“We bought Rackers in for a reason … he’s been in a lot of competitive situations, and he’s won the battle in a lot of situations,” Shanahan said. “Graham needs that competition.”
The two don’t seem to let the competition get the best of them. In minicamp, they always were together and didn’t seem too focused on what the other was doing, positively or negatively.
Expect the battle to go down to the wire.
Shanahan said there’s a chance it will come to the final preseason game before the Redskins open Sept. 9 at New Orleans.