- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 13, 2015

ASHBURN — Dustin Hopkins jogged to midfield at the Georgia Dome, kicked his right leg once, then took his place at the 45-yard line.

The Washington Redskins‘ rookie kicker looked calm and confident, despite missing a 53-yard field goal attempt earlier in the game.

On the sideline, coach Jay Gruden was not so sure.

“We were all curious – will he make that kick in a big-time situation, big-time game?” Gruden recalled on Monday at Redskins Park.

Hopkins had made his first six field goal attempts since signing with the team in Week 2 after kicker Kai Forbath was cut. None were in a situation like this, though, with the game on the line and a deafening crowd trying to break his focus.

Hopkins‘ made the 52-yard tying try that sent the game to overtime before the Redskins ultimately lost, 25-19.

He has made eight of nine attempts in four games.

“I think he has proven that he’s pretty good,” Gruden said. “He made a huge kick. He missed one, a long one, but he made one [in] clutch, crunch time. He knocked it through there, so that’s exciting — exciting for him and exciting for us moving forward knowing that he’s got that experience in him now and he can make it.”

The Redskins cut Forbath after a 17-10 loss to the Miami Dolphins in Week 1. The timing of the move was somewhat surprising, but the Redskins had finally decided they needed to make a change.

Forbath, entering his fourth season with the Redskins, had made 60 of his 69 field goal attempts. He made a 45-yarder and missed a 46-yard try in the loss to Miami, but his accuracy was not the reason he was cut. Gruden said the team was looking for the total package in a kicker, most notably a stronger leg on kickoffs, an area Forbath often came up short.

Against Miami, only one of Forbath’s three kickoffs were downed for a touchback, and Dolphins wide receiver Jarvis Landry averaged 27 yards on the two returns.

In 2014, Forbath registered just 18 touchbacks, the second-worst among starting kickers.

The Redskins opted to sign Hopkins, who had been released by the New Orleans Saints as they finalized the 53-man roster at the start of the season.

It was relatively unknown what Washington would get from Hopkins, a sixth-round draft pick of the Buffalo Bills in 2013, but for now, it’s clear they made the right choice.

Since joining the Redskins, Hopkins has 17 touchbacks, tied for seventh-most with the Oakland Raiders’ Sebastian Janikowski.

The Redskins knew Hopkins had the leg to boom the ball deep into the end zone. On Sunday, he proved he can make kicks in pressing situations, too.

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