It's been a good offseason for Joey Slye.
Let's state the obvious: after being in the midst of a kicking competition for all of training camp, Slye emerged victorious when the Commanders decided to release Michael Badgley before their preseason game against the Baltimore Ravens. Yes, it was considered his job to lose, but anytime a team brings in another player at your position, particularly when you're the only player on the roster to have your responsibilities, there's pressure for you to rise to the occasion.
Slye has done exactly that in the Commanders' two preseason games, hitting all four of his field goals and three extra points. The highlight of the offseason for Slye came on Monday night in the 29-28 victory against the Ravens. It sounds kind of...silly...to talk about intense situations in a preseason game, but there was some level of nerves in FedExField as Slye readied himself to score the game-winning field goal.
The score, and the fact that Washington ended the Ravens' 24-game winning streak on Monday Night Football, didn't matter, but Slye hitting the 49-yard attempt in that scenario certainly did, and it served as a small reminder as to why Slye still has Ron Rivera’s trust.
"Joey's had a really good camp," Rivera said. "He really did have a tremendous camp and expedited the decision as far as letting Mike go. He did a great job for us, but Joey was having such a good camp and building such a good confidence out there. This is a big deal for us."
The decision to bring in some competition for Slye was not unwarranted. While he is one of the more accurate active kickers in the league, there are a few rough spots to his game. Extra points have been a problem for Slye; in his four seasons, his accuracy rate on PATs stands at 87.6%.
That's why it made sense for the Commanders to bring in Badgley, who made all 33 of his extra points in 2022. Slye has been through several competitions in his NFL career, so he understood the decision. Rather than let the move get to him, he decided to focus on himself and let the results play out.
"I know the confidence I have in myself and my abilities and if I'm at my best, I feel like I could be one of the best," Slye said.
Slye has tried to emphasize consistency throughout camp. He wants to take the same steps and set up for every kick. He has conversations with the offense before each game about his range that day, but no matter where the offense sets him up, he wants to be as reliable as possible.
"I've done a really good job this offseason of working on my queues to really keep me present in moments like this, so regardless of if it's a game-winning field goal, [I'm] having the same operations, same mindset," Slye said.
Slye's first kick of the night was easy enough. After the offense had moved down to the Ravens' 3-yard line, Slye hit a 21-yard attempt that got Washington on the board. The next two kicks were more challenging, and more important in the context of the game. His second came with 3:48 left in the third quarter and would have cut the Ravens' lead from four points to one. Slye handled that one as well, ending a nine-play drive for the Commanders.
The final kick was the game-winner, and while there were no stakes in the outcome, the atmosphere certainly didn't feel that way. Fans were chanting, "End the streak!" while Ravens head coach John Harbaugh called a timeout in an apparent effort to ice Slye.
None of that made Slye flinch, and with nine seconds left on the clock, he sent the ball flying between the uprights to give Washington a one-point lead. Slye held up an "L" as he ran to the sideline, and center Nick Gates headbutted him in celebration.
"I think it's hilarious," Slye said of Gates' headbutt. "Adding someone like that, that's got a little bit of juice in him is awesome for the team. Hopefully he's not in concussion protocol going into Saturday."
Check out the best photos from the Washington Commanders' second preseason game against the Baltimore Ravens. (Photos by Emilee Fails/Washington Commanders)
Monday night's win was a great moment for Slye. As Rivera said during his press conference, it provides a confidence boost for the veteran kicker, and it came a day after it was clear that Slye will be the Commanders' kicker going forward.
Slye was more focused on what the moment meant for the team, though.
"I think we're approaching this very basically," Slye said. "Each game just trying to go out and do our best. We've got a bunch of guys competing for opportunities right now on a 53-man roster, myself included. Not just competition in the building but competition outside of it so for me I'm just trying to make sure that I do my job to the best of my ability."