Sizzling Preseason Kicker Battle Sizzles
During a radio appearance before the Skins' preseason opener, I said one of the positional battles that most interested me this month was the one between placekickers Shaun Suisham and Dave Rayner. Boy, was I stupid.
This kicker battle has not exactly materialized, at least in the scoring part of kicking. Through two games, the Redskins have attempted three scoring kicks: two extra points and a 20-yard field goal. No NFL team has attempted fewer scoring kicks; the Bengals also have three. Washington is also the only NFL team not to attempt a field goal of longer than 20 yards.
"I just go out and kick when they ask me to kick," Suisham said Saturday night. "Anything beyond that is out of my control. I feel great. I thought I hit the ball well tonight. I had two opportunities, and I thought it went well. I was happy to get in and be part of the game this week, and hopefully we can get even more work next week."
Suisham was given the first half, which means he was 1-for-1 on field goals (that 20-yarder) and had one kickoff, which was fielded at the Pittsburgh 3 and returned 26 yards.
Rayner was given the second half, which means he was 2-for-2 on extra points and had three kickoffs, which were fielded at the Pittsburgh goal line, 5 yards deep in the end zone, and at the Pittsburgh 1, but were returned a total of 131 yards.
"Obviously we've got to look at some film to figure out why they brought it out that far, but I was happy with all the three kickoffs I had," Rayner said. "I was happy with direction, distance, hangtime, everything, so I don't know. At least we got some reps tonight."
Rayner would have had a 34- or 35-yard field goal attempt early in the third quarter, but the Redskins elected to go for a fourth-and-2 and converted. He also nearly got a tackle on one of the kickoff returns; "you can't really call that a tackle," he said. "I grind the cleats down on my right shoe; I went to push off and it was a sorry display. I slowed him up a little bit."
Neither kicker would say which was a better tackler. And for the record, the Redskins now rank last in the NFL in average kickoff return yardage against this preseason, with a 35.0 yards-per mark.
Elsewhere in special teams, Washington is 26th in net punting, 25th in kickoff returns, and 25th in punt returns.
(See also: Skins blog)
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