Should Washington consider making a change at kicker? originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington
When Dustin Hopkins missed a 44-yard field goal in the fourth quarter of Washington's win over the Cowboys, the kick itself did not impact the outcome of the game. Washington was already up 25-3 at that point in the contest and they would go on to win 25-3.
Still, in the grand scheme of things, the kick does matter for Hopkins and Washington's future. Going 1-for-2 in Week 7, Hopkins is now 8-for-12 on field-goal attempts, putting him at a 66.7% conversion rate. Hopkins, for his career, sat around an 84% success rate for field goals. The veteran is now 3-for-7 from 40 or more yards.
There's been a clear drop-off in his performance and the kicker has become an unreliable option for Ron Rivera on offense in situations where the kick is not a "gimme."
Earlier in the week, Rivera said he was "not considering making a change" at kicker, even after a missed field goal by Hopkins in Week 6 played a big role in Washington's one-point loss to the Giants. A week later, it's worth asking again if a switch is on the horizon.
Hopkins was one of Washington's few reliable options on offense in recent years, but as of this season so far, that is not the case. While his reputation has earned him a little faith, Rivera's decision to stick with him doesn't fully match the mentality he's preached throughout this campaign.
Even after a 1-5 start, the head coach was adamant the team was going after a weak NFC East division. Now at 2-5, that is not going to change. In win-now mode, he opted to make a change at quarterback after just four weeks of poor play from Dwayne Haskins. The two aren't the same, but if something isn't working, Rivera has often shown he's not afraid to try something different.
Not having a consistent option at kicker doesn't just create the potential to fall by a slim margin impacted by one wide-right boot, but it can change the whole dynamic of the offense. If Hopkins can't show that he can hit a kick deeper than 39 yards, fourth-down attempts may feel necessary depending on the field position.
Rivera hasn't had a problem doing that in the past, but a kick of 45 yards should lead to three points at a high rate, not lead to the offense potentially turning the ball over because it didn't feel confident in the leg on the sideline.
With a bye week in store, Hopkins will have some time to try and get right, and it may only take one make for everything to click once again. Yet, if it doesn't, it could get hard to justify trotting him out there. One missed kick could be the difference between a lead, a win, and even the division.