Training Camp Battle: Kicker
By: Jake Russell @_JakeRussell
Posted: 2012-07-18
Category: Washington Redskins News
Not since the days of Chip Lohmiller have the Redskins been set at kicker. Since his departure after the 1994 season, Washington has seen 17 kickers take the field, including five in the 2000 season alone. You read that correctly; the Redskins have averaged one kicker a year for the last 17 seasons.

This summer, there is a legitimate kicking challenge that will take place in Ashburn. The incumbent Graham Gano has been the burgundy and gold's primary kicker since the final four games of the 2009 season. He will be challenged by veteran Neil Rackers, who was signed in April.

The 25-year-old Gano has not had strong competition in camp like this, in part to help allow him to develop into a more polished kicker as he was beginning his career. Since 2010, Justin Medlock, Clint Stitser and Shayne Graham have come and gone out of Redskins Park without supplanting Gano.

The Redskins have been very patient with Gano over the last couple of seasons, hoping not to diminish his confidence too early. Now they have decided it's time for him to step up. Rackers will force him to do just that.

For their careers, Rackers has made 80% of his field goal attempts in 12 years while Gano has converted 73.8% in just over two full seasons.

Last season Gano made some strides but still struggled. He finished 29th in field goal percentage (75.6 %) amongst kickers with at least 16 field goals attempted. Rackers ranked 15th with 84.2% of his field goals converted.

Gano's lack of success in 2011 was not all his fault. The blocking in front of him was suspect. A career high five field goals were blocked along with one extra point.

Against Seattle, the offensive line made Seahawks defensive lineman Red Bryant look like a Pro Bowler. The 323-pounder was able block both a field goal and an extra point attempt in their late November contest.

One thing Gano has going for him is his youth. At 35, Rackers is the third oldest player on the team behind Sav Rocca (38) and London Fletcher (37).

Coming out of camp, the Redskins are looking for consistency, an increase in leg strength and better accuracy. From there, they hope to end their pattern of recycling kickers at a rate of once a season.
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