Gano, Rackers battling to be Redskins kicker
ASHBURN, Va. (AP)
One of four preseason games down and the Washington Redskins are no closer to resolving their kicking competition.
That's because neither 25-year-old incumbent Graham Gano nor challenger Neil Rackers, who'll be 35 next week, attempted a field goal during Thursday's 7-6 win at Buffalo. Gano kicked the game's only extra point. Each kicked off once.
The next chance for Gano and Rackers, who have each made 16 of 19 attempts in practice during training camp, to hit a kick when it counts comes Saturday at Chicago.
''Ultimately, it's games,'' said special teams coach Danny Smith, who was frustrated that Washington had a .756 field goal percentage in 2011, the NFC's second-lowest.
''It's about execution under pressure. We're going to try to put them in those pressure situations and see who executes the best. Obviously, I know Graham better, but my job is to get to know the other guy well, too. I'm sure most of you will be able to pick it after four preseason games. It's going to be on production.''
Rackers has been one of the NFL's most productive kickers during his 12 seasons with Cincinnati, Arizona and Houston, converting 80 percent of his field goal tries and ranking ninth among active kickers with 1,164 points.
A Pro Bowl pick when he made 95.2 percent for the 2005 Cardinals, Rackers had his next most accurate seasons the past three years for the Texans. That included 32 of 38 in 2011. However, Rackers and the Texans couldn't agree on a contract and he signed with the Redskins in April.
''I enjoyed my visit here and decided it was a good spot,'' said Rackers, who has forged a good friendship with Gano despite the fact that one will no longer be with the team when the season starts next month.
Rackers is the first true threat to Gano, who didn't have to fight for his job in 2010, his first full season. After making just 24 of 35 that year while working with three holders, Gano's only competition last summer was Shayne Graham, who signed after camp started and quickly fizzled. But then Gano had a league-high five kicks blocked last year. Not all were his fault.
''I knew it was coming,'' said Gano. ''I just didn't know who it was going to be. I grew up watching Neil. He's a good kicker. (But) I look at it as I'm the only kicker here and all I have to do is make my kicks and I don't have to worry about anything else.''
Although Gano has the advantage of youth and tighter relationships with Smith, holder Sav Rocca and snapper Nick Sundberg, Rackers isn't worried either.
''You'll age quick in this league if you worry about what (the coaches are) thinking,'' Rackers said. ''Sometimes (the kicks) go through and sometimes they don't. How you're going to hit the next one is the one that's important. I feel great. I've been hitting the ball well. I'm going to do this until 32 teams tell me no. If someone wants to give me a job at 70, I'll do it then, too.''
Notes: Left tackle Trent Williams, who injured his left foot on the touchdown at Buffalo, has a bone bruise and might not be ready for the Bears' game. ... Maurice Hurt, who has been starting in place of injured left guard Kory Lichtensteiger, could miss a couple of days with an inflamed knee. ... DE Jarvis Jenkins, who played Thursday for the first time since tearing an ACL last Aug. 25, was out Saturday with the flu. ... CB Morgan Trent is sidelined with knee and shoulder injuries. . The Redskins finally heard from Kentwan Balmer, who left camp on Aug. 1, but the defensive end will not be returning to the team.