- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 2, 2021

For now. 

Those are the words Ron Rivera used when he was asked if Chris Blewitt was still Washington’s kicker. Rivera’s answer was hardly a vote of confidence and it was obvious why: Blewitt has had more kicks blocked (3) than field goals made (2) in the two games since he took over the job.

So far, the decision to move on from Dustin Hopkins hasn’t worked out as planned. And it’s too late for Washington to go back to their former kicker, even if Rivera wanted. Hopkins is with the Los Angeles Chargers now. 

“The thing everybody understands is kickers are hard to find,” Rivera said. “Consistent kickers are even harder to find. Guys that have had success in this league are on teams. There’s not a 90% guy out there right now that you could just pick up and he’s going to go out and do it.”

Rivera told 106.7 The Fan on Tuesday that the team will not bring in any additional kickers on a tryout during its bye week — perhaps a sign that Washington does plan on sticking with Blewitt, at least for another game.

But there’s no doubt that Blewitt is off to a rough start. According to Pro Football Reference, Blewitt is the first kicker since 2016 (Nick Folk, then with the New York Jets) to have at least three field-goal attempts blocked in a season. The Jets parted ways with Folk after the season. 

The last kickers to have four blocked kicks in a season were Travis Coons and Graham Gano in 2015. Gano, coincidentally, was with the Rivera-led Carolina Panthers back then — and Rivera often uses Gano as an example to explain why it’s important to keep faith in a kicker. 

Despite some uneven moments over Gano’s first five years in Carolina, Gano led the league in accuracy in 2017 — making 29 of his 30 attempts. It was a sharp improvement from the year before when Gano’s percentage was 78.9 (30 of 38).

“That’s a work in progress,” Rivera said.

Of course, Rivera used the same example as recently as Oct. 6 in talking about Hopkins — two weeks before cutting him.  Rivera justified the move as “his decision” and one that the team needed to make. 

Hopkins did struggle for Washington this season — missing kicks in three of six games — but his overall accuracy still ranked in the top half of the league. On Sunday for Los Angeles, Hopkins nailed his lone 48-yarder and went 3 of 3 on extra points. 

Blewitt’s accuracy issues, too, date back to college — when he made only 69.6% of his field goals at the University of Pittsburgh. After graduating in the spring of 2017, Blewitt had been largely out of the NFL, aside from a brief offseason stint in 2019 with the Chicago Bears. Most recently, the Alexandria native had been working as a personal trainer and as a warehouse worker for UPS. 

But Rivera has seen flashes in Blewitt. The 26-year-old’s 52-yarder from Sunday’s loss in Denver showed off the kicker’s leg strength, Rivera said. “Absolutely stroked it,” the coach added. 

Rivera compared Blewitt’s mechanics to a golf swing — the more fluid he is, the better the result. 

When Blewitt veers off course, that’s when things can get messy. His first blocked kick in Denver was low and hit a Broncos lineman in the shoulder — the result of failing to kick fully underneath the ball, Rivera said. Low kicks have been an issue for Blewitt as his blocked attempt in Green Bay also barely got into the air. 

Even if Washington wanted to replace Blewitt at some point, there aren’t a lot of great options. Josh Lambo was an All-Pro in 2019, but he was derailed by a hip injury last year and the Jaguars released him after he missed three field goals in three games. The Chargers cut bait with Tristan Vizcaino, who missed a league-high five PATs in six contests. Former Bears kicker Eddy Pineiro was already briefly on Washington’s practice squad this year before he was released.

“You look out there and you say, ‘OK, who else is out there?’” Rivera said. “Well, that’s the hard part.” 

• Matthew Paras can be reached at mparas@washingtontimes.com.

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