Keeping Tabs on Washington's Team

Graham Could Stabilize Redskins' Kicking Game

Gano has company at placekicker in the form of redheaded Virginia native

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Shayne Graham and Graham Gano discuss their special relationship as they try to win the kicking job with the Redskins. Redskins.com | NFL.com (Published Monday, Aug 8, 2011)

    While most teams covet pass rushing linebackers or strong-armed quarterbacks, the Redskins are cornering the market on one of the NFL’s rarest commodities.

    Shayne Graham joins the Redskins to provide some competition for another Graham -- Graham Gano -- at placekicker. Graham is a 10-year veteran who, in 2010, made all 12 of his field goal attempts in nine games with two different teams.

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    [DC] Shanahan Discusses Redskins' Conditioning
    No conditioning tests, coach? So what was that Big Al stuff about last training camp? Redskins.com | NFL.com (Published Monday, Aug 8, 2011)

    Graham’s composure has been in doubt since he missed a pair of kicks as a member of the Bengals in a playoff loss to the Jets two years ago. He left Cincinnati following the game and Bengals coach Marvin Lewis suggested he couldn’t overcome the “demons of his last kicks.”

    The 33-year old redhead failed to make the Ravens final roster in 2010, but spent time with the Patriots and Giants as a fill-in. He has yet to re-establish himself as the kicker who made more than 85 percent of his kicks in five of six seasons, missing just two games in that span.

    Just to put those impressive accolades in perspective, the Redskins have never in their franchise history had a kicker start 14 or more games in a season and also converted more than 85 percent of his field goal attempts in that same season.

    If Graham can rediscover that kind of proficiency, then the revolving door at kicker in Washington might finally grind to a halt. Winning the kicking competition this preseason would make him the 14th kicker to wear a Redskins jersey since 2000. However, beating out Gano won’t be easy, as Mike Shanahan has often expressed confidence in the young kicker.

    Gano is coming off his first full NFL season and it’s one he’d largely like to forget. He finished last among fulltime kickers, making just 69 percent of his attempts and not one from over 50 yards.

    The 24-year-old Gano is a bit of a project, which is fine because this is the ideal time to develop a kicker. Washington isn’t expected to be in contention for the postseason, allowing them to evaluate players like Gano in a low-risk situation.

    Yet Graham’s entrance ups the ante and forces Gano to elevate his game and forget about the uneven performance he turned in last year.

    Though Gano experienced his fair share of struggles, the ability is there. He has decent leg strength. Accuracy is more of a concern and, as a raw prospect, it’s clear he hasn’t put everything together yet. But after each game, he made himself accessible to the media and displayed the same confident demeanor each time regardless of his performance.

    That even-keeled mentality is a huge positive for a kicker. Even though Gano has yet to match Graham’s track record, he might become a better kicker because of his mental toughness.

    But Gano can’t afford a poor preseason performance. Graham has been a legitimate kicker in the league and, if he can prove his mental misgivings are a thing of the past, then Gano’s job security isn’t a guarantee. The Redskins have been searching for a reliable placekicker since the Stone Age, and if Gano fails to show any progression in the preseason, then Graham, a former Virginia Tech Hokie and Virginia native, may be home to stay.

    Besides, the Redskins wouldn’t leave John Beck in the locker room as the lone redhead, would they?