After kicker Dustin Hopkins began the year with a torrid start, he faced some adversity midway through the season that he will learn from into next next year.
The 2016 season was filled with highs and lows, ups and downs for Dustin Hopkins. The beginning of his second season with the Redskins began right where he left off, connecting on 12 consecutive field goals to start the year.
That included a five-field goal performance against the Giants in Week 3, which earned him NFC Special Teams Player of the Week. Throughout the team's three games in September, Hopkins was also a perfect 5-of-5 on extra points, landing him NFC Special Teams Player of the Month.
His first misses came in the team's victory over Baltimore, when he missed 50-plus yard field goal in blustery conditions and then hit the goal post on an extra point. Including that game, Hopkins missed eight field goals and three extra points during the remaining 12 games of the season.
In total, Hopkins made 34-of-42 field goals, an 81 percent clip that ranked 21st among NFL kickers, while adding to single-season career highs in field goals and points (138). Hopkins' 32-yard field goal against the Giants on New Year's Day also broke Mark Moseley's record for most field goals in a single season in team history.
"I was really happy the way the season started, and then obviously disappointed in the way it ended," Hopkins said the day after the team's season ended to the Giants. "But at the same time, I guess what you learn is – I heard Kirk's interview [Sunday] night and it holds true, that tough times don't last but tough people do, and I think that's true. So not to worry about any outside circumstances or noise but just try to stay the course and be the best you [that] you can be. And some stuff as far as technically, how to have a pro mishit, which means a make, just not you're A-ball, just to how to learn to better do that. Things to build on, but I'm not going to let this season carry over into next."
It was after Week 9, when the Redskins visited London and tied the Bengals in overtime, which tested Hopkins the most. With the opportunity to win the game in overtime, Hopkins missed a 34-yard field goal that would loom large as the season progressed and the team's playoff chances thinned.
That wasn't the defining moment of Hopkins' year, but he used the Bye Week to learn about himself and was affirmed of the organization's trust in him.
"I'm not going to waver on my level of confidence," Gruden said a couple weeks after the Bengals game. "I have confidence if we have fourth down and we need to kick the field goal, we'll kick the field goal. There might be a situation where I go for it – last week we went for it on fourth-and-two in field goal range because I thought we needed a touchdown there. I'm not going to say I'm not going to kick a field goal because I'm afraid he's going to miss it. If we need the points, we're going to kick it."
Hopkins will spend the majority of his offseason in the Loudoun County, Va., area, working with punter Tress Way and longsnapper Nick Sundberg. He will, like usual, see a couple of kicking coaches to further hone his skills.
"It was an honor to play with these guys in here," Hopkins said. "I think everybody wishes it would have ended differently. There's only one happy team at the end of the year and we would have liked to have been that team but it didn't work out that way."
Hopkins said he was also happy with the way kickoff coverage performed, especially as he worked with the nuances of the 25-yard touchback rule and pooching the ball on occasion to give opponents worse starting field position. Overall, the Redskins ranked fourth in the league with 70.6 percent of kicks going for touchbacks and only allowed one return for a touchdown.
"I thought we did well this year in terms of overall kickoffs, minus, I think, if you take away that long return against Philly, where they housed one on us, I think our average was really, really good," Hopkins said. "So for the most part, when we needed touchbacks those came and when we needed really good coverage because we hit one high, I think the guys did an awesome job in coverage."