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Competition Brings Out An Improved Kai Forbath

Posted Sep 1, 2014

Kai Forbath had a battle on his hands as he faced rookie Zach Hocker for the Redskins’ kicker job, but head coach Jay Gruden said the veteran’s consistency paid off in the end.

Kickers in the National Football League just generally understand that each season brings with it the likelihood that they will be competing for their jobs at some point or another.

Redskins kicker Kai Forbath is no different. When the team used a seventh-round draft pick to take Arkansas kicker Zach Hocker this year, Forbath knew at that very moment that it was time to buckle down and win his spot back.

So after a long offseason and four preseason games, Forbath came to the Redskins’ training facility in Loudoun County, Va., on Saturday – when the team faced a 4 p.m. deadline to trim its roster down to 53 players – and said he didn’t yet know which kicker the coaches had picked.

So how’d he learn he won the job?

“They let me down the stairs,” Forbath said with a laugh.

And that was that.

Forbath will enter his third season as the Redskins’ kicker after the lengthy position battle.

“Zach was a great kicker,” Forbath said. “He gave us great competition and definitely made me work. I just went out there and made kicks like I’m here to do, and, like I said, it would just take care of the rest.”

Redskins head coach Jay Gruden praised Forbath for going out and taking the job.

“Quite frankly, Kai did a nice job,” Gruden said. “His percentage was higher in all of the kicks out here. In training camp, his percentage was a little bit higher, then in preseason games. And kickoffs were close enough that there wasn’t a drastic difference.”

In the end, Forbath’s consistency and experience – he’s hit 35-of-40 field-goal attempts in 24 games with the Redskins the past two seasons – allowed him to win the job over Hocker, who has the stronger leg of the two.

But Forbath didn’t exactly start off on the best foot – no pun intended – when the preseason got underway.

In the preseason opener against the New England Patriots at FedExField, Forbath was short on a 46-yard field goal attempt and also sent one kickoff out of bounds, giving the Patriots the ball at their 40.

Hocker, meanwhile, made two field goals, booted the opening kickoff out of the back of the end zone for a touchback and even made a potential touchdown-saving tackle on another kickoff.

Forbath said his struggles against the Patriots made him focus even harder the rest of the way. He didn’t miss a kick the rest of the preseason, converting 4-of-5 kicks total, while Hocker missed on his third and final kick from 39 yards in Thursday’s preseason finale against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

“I was hoping they weren’t going to do anything drastic after one game,” Forbath said Monday. “But, like I said, it made me work harder, and the last three weeks, really focused, and I feel like I’m in a good spot going into the season.”

Gruden said he felt there was a “fair competition” for the kicking job, but “in order to beat the champion, you’ve got to outkick him.”

“Hats off to Kai,” the first-year head coach said. “He took the challenge and I think he is a better kicker because of it. … I think we would feel good with either kicker, but Kai won the battle and he deserved it.”

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