Three Eagles Leftovers

NFL: Arizona Cardinals at Philadelphia Eagles

From Cedric Thornton’s progress to DeSean Jackson’s optimism to Alex Henery’s confidence, here are three Eagles leftovers.

1. Cedric Thornton was one of the Eagles’ most pleasant surprises during the 2013 season. Originally signed as an undrafted free agent to play for Jim Washburn in 2012, Thornton thrived pretty much immediately in the Eagles’ new 3-4 scheme. At 6-4, 309, he looked like a natural two-gapping against the run and constantly getting to the football.


Eagles coaches track what they call "contacts at the ball." As far as I could tell, that term was synonymous with "tackles." Thornton led all Eagles defensive linemen with 78 (including five for loss).

But the area where the 25-year-old wants to improve going forward is his pass-rush.

"I definitely wasn’t satisfied," Thornton said. "I only had one sack. Defensive linemen, they are rated off of sacks. I got a lot of tackles, but mostly they were effort plays. I definitely want more sacks, so I’m not satisfied. I’ve definitely got a lot to improve and definitely looking forward to this offseason to get better and just looking for next season."

Thornton had one sack and eight hurries on the season. In the Eagles' sub-package, he rushed as an interior lineman. In base, he most often lined up at defensive end, but also saw some action at nose tackle.

The Eagles will likely add some new players to their defensive line rotation in the offseason. But it will be a big surprise if Thornton is not one of the three starters going into the 2014 season. He showed great consistency all season long and proved he has a high ceiling.

2. In between answering questions about his contract last week, DeSean Jackson was asked how close he thinks the Eagles are to being serious Super Bowl contenders.

"I think we’re very close," Jackson said. "I said before the season we were a top-five team in this league. That’s just an unfortunate ending to our season. I felt that game should have ended different, but that’s neither here nor there. Next year the league will have something interesting to watch with us. So, second year under Chip Kelly, he’ll have a feel for the NFL, and I think everybody here has a feel for his system. So we should be alright."

Football Outsiders recently released its weighted DVOA rankings. The premise is to measure which teams are playing the best in recent weeks. Granted, the Eagles didn't play last week, but they were ranked fourth. Among the top-five teams, the Birds are the only squad no longer in the postseason.

The offense seems pretty close to Super Bowl-caliber, if you ask me. The Eagles need to make decisions at wide receiver. They have to figure out if they're happy with their running back depth. And they may want to look at their offensive line (specifically Todd Herremans and the backup spots). But you can certainly make the case that they're close there.

The defense needs several new pieces (pass-rusher and safety are the two that jump out). And let's not forget special teams. It wasn't just Alex Henery. This group underperformed in various aspects (aside from Donnie Jones) all season long.

It's always dangerous to think you're close. But depending on what happens in free agency and the draft this offseason, the Eagles could be in position to make some real noise in 2014.

3. Let's get back to special teams. I asked Henery if he is confident he'll be back next season.

"You always feel confident," he said. "It’s one of those things where you can’t worry about losing your job. It’s like if you’re worrying about losing your job. It’s one of those things where you can’t dread on something you have no control over. So it’s just one of those things that I’ll work on getting better over the offseason and coming back more technical and strong and go from there."

Aaron Schatz of Football Outsiders published an article in the New York Times back in 2006 arguing that field-goal accuracy will fluctuate from year to year for NFL kickers, but kickoff numbers stay consistent.

Henery ranked 21st in kickoffs (62.7 yards) in 2013, although the intentionally short ones against the Vikings must be taken into account. But in 2012, Henery was 23rd (63.3). And in 2011, he was 18th (65.0).

If the Eagles look to add a kicker through free agency, keep an eye on Seattle's Steven Hauschka. He has ranked in the top-10 in average kickoff distance for three straight years and obviously has experience kicking in bad weather.

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  • Bdawkbdawk

    Sheil, above you say that Thornton has a high ceiling. I recall reading others who seemed to say that Thornton had a relatively low ceiling, but that he was playing close to it. I recognize that a lot of these pronouncements are highly subjective, arbitrary, or based on pedigree/draft position, but I’m wondering if you are seeing anything else. From your review is there anything in Thornton’s physical make up or technique that you think projects to a higher ceiling? Or is it just his early succes in a new scheme? Either might be valid – just curious.

    • sdk152

      Sure, I can clarify. I guess I saw him as a rotational player at the start of the season, and now my expectation is that he becomes a high-level starter. I wouldn’t rule Pro Bowl out if he can work on his pass-rush. Defensive linemen sometimes develop later than other positions -SK

      • Beastmode

        Sheil, do you think with more time behind the wheel the Swiss Cheese Bandito will reach his full potential in the scheme? Since he’s gotten more publicity this season do you expect a drop off in his, uh, performance?

        Heh.

      • Bdawkbdawk

        Really appreciate the response, Sheil.

  • anon

    Hard to get Hauschka away from Seattle, those guys love it there and they are contenders.

  • Tom W

    Wonder what we tender Thorton at … 3d round tender sounds about right .. Howie is reluctant to use higher round tenders …

    Doubt we resign him just yet … may wanna see if he has hit his ceiling or can he get better next year …and see what we have in Kreuger … If we take that monster from minnesota at d end at 22 because his is BPA, then may not have a need to pay Thornton as much as well….

    • Tag

      They might tender him at 2nd Rd since he’s a solid starter

    • ACViking

      Thornton’d be a steal if Roseman tenders only at Rd 3.

      Where do you find 3-4 run-stopping DEs with his size and experience in the 3rd Rd of the NFL draft?

      • Andy124

        LSU? :)

    • mksp

      I think we’d lose him if we only give him a 3rd round tender, and I wouldn’t be happy with that trade.

      I’d like to resign him, give us some cost certainty at a key position. Howie is good at this stuff though, I trust him.

  • macadood

    Hauschka would certainly be welcome. Stupid henery with his stupid answers…”it’s one of those things” please. Says he has no control over it, thats BS, his employment is fully based on his performance on the field which he controls.

  • Tag

    Roseman stated that Henry was the most accurate kicker in NCAA history, the great Henery hails from Nebraska who kicked in increment weathers. This fluke can’t even kick a 48 yarder in sunny Philly. I would say sign a veteran kicker.

    • Matt

      Except the fact that he HAS kicked 48 yarders in sunny Philly. In fact, he kicked a 49 yard FG in windy cold conditions!

      • Will

        What happen in the NO game ? missed 48 yds…

        • Matt

          It was a 50/50 shot at that range at that temperature.

          And we didn’t need him to win the game- that was early on.

          • Will

            we loss by two how do you figure he misses a FG didn’t cost us the game? Kelly could of went for a FG right before half…but probably felt like the rest of us he would miss….talking about NO game…

          • Matt

            Because making that FG changes the NO game plan. They could’ve gone for the TD. Our defense wasn’t stopping them.

          • Will

            Matt I get you like the guy …you are entitle to your opinion, even if it’s in the minority….

          • Will

            How often do you smoke crack Matt? Be honest….

          • Richard Colton

            don’t chase this guy away! how many dyed-in-th-wool AH fans can there possibly be outside of his immediate family? And we have one here.

          • Will

            unbelievable must not know about Geico 15% off car insurance either…lol…

          • Matt

            How often do you insult people instead of making an argument? You prove my point that the Henery-haters don’t have facts, only emotions.

          • cliff henny

            45-50, 50/50 means the guy isnt very good. under 40, 99.9%, but serious a miss or 2, 40-45, low 90′s, 45-50 75%, getting in mid 50′s can get down in 50%.

            .

            look at these top 10…they are money.

            http://espn.go.com/nfl/statistics/player/_/stat/kicking/sort/fieldGoalsMade/seasontype/2

          • Matt

            50/50 is for all kickers all time. It was a 50/50 shot for ANY kicker. So it has nothing to do with how good he is.

      • Tag

        Missed kick against Chargers cost us the game, missed kick against New Orleans cost us a playoff loss. Lack of touch backs against Minnesota cost us the game.

        • anon

          id blame secondary for minny loss

        • Matt

          Nope, he didn’t cost us the Chargers game. That was on the defense. He didn’t cost us the New Orleans game. That was also on the defense. He didn’t cost us the Minnesota game. That was also on the defense. And the lack of touchbacks were a decision by the ST coach.

          His missed kicks didn’t affect the outcome in either of those games.

          • Tag

            Hypothetically if he makes the kick vs Chargers – defense holds them off to a field goal….we head to overtime and possibly win. Vs NO if he makes the field goal NewO are forced to score a touchdown. These missed field goals are momentum changers similar to a turnover. Due to lack of leg strength our ST coach doesn’t trust him hence it cost us the game. A change is coming just wait.

          • cliff henny

            him coughing up the fumble that hit him in the nads bothers me more.

          • Johnny Domino

            Should be able to take one for the team there.

          • Andy124

            There are also other plays you can point to as reasons for losing those games. Trying to blame a loss on a single player or single play is ludicrous, because you can always point to so many that would also have changed the outcome.

            Not saying Henery is good, but hanging losses entirely around his neck is completely illogical.

            Better off making the point based on his percentage by range and net kickoff average.

          • Tag

            I didn’t blame him I was speaking hypothetically. Football is a team sport offense, defense, and special team should be on all cylinders. Am I the only one who bites tongue when Henery gets on field. Dude has made 2/5 from 50+ yards in 3 seasons.

          • Andy124

            Your earlier post did though. I should have replied to that one instead.

            And as you can tell from this thread, you are not in the minority in your lack of confidence in Alex.

          • Michael Winter Cho

          • Matt

            Our defense wasn’t stopping either SD or NO, so again the kicks really don’t matter.

          • JofreyRice

            how about the short kick in the playoff game. I’m guessing that was a decision by the ST coach, too?

            I think the tail is wagging the dog here for ya, bud. Fipp’s decision in regards to Coradarell Patterson had everything to do with Henery’s lack of leg. If he had the ability to boom it out of the endzone, it wouldn’t have been a question.

  • Richard Colton

    The DVOA angle is one I’ll be keeping an eye on next season. Now that we have a better idea about the team, I’m wondering if there was a reason or science behind why the team was so much better in the 2nd half than the first. Yeah – Nick Foles, players transitioning to 3-4, smoothies, etc…

    The reason I’m curious is because it was a constant with Andy. In our successful years, it felt like we were cresting a wave as we entered the playoffs. Big Red called it “perfecting the peak.” Probably more art than science. Does Chip have it in him as well?

  • Will

    Henry missed to many 48 yd FG’s and only had 37 touchbacks compared to a league high of 65 touchbacks by the NE Kicker…FG’s and Field position are to vital to mess around here…spend a million per year and go get the best….Instead of 600,000.00-700,000.00 range a year the extra 300,000.00 more you end up spending is well worth it for best available Kicker on the market……this is not a smart position to be cheap on or find a mid-level guy…only the best here… way to important than saving a few bucks…

    • Token

      In a league where they are basically asking you to always kick touchbacks, you need a guy with a leg to accomplish that task. Such a little thing, but crucial.

      Henery just barely has a NFL leg. You cant really trust him over 40 or 45 yards. Thats a problem.

      • Will

        Totally Agreement here… hence the upvote

      • Matt

        Henery’s leg is average for a NFL kicker. And you can definitely trust him over 40 and 45, since he’s mad a ton of those.

        • JofreyRice

          Average for what kind of NFL kicker, a retired one? I want someone with a bigger leg than present-day Al Del Greco.

          • Matt

            No a current one. He missed a 60 yard FG only because of accuracy, not leg strength.

          • Andy124

            That kick aleviated a lot of concerns about Alex’s leg strength. I remember posting and receiving a lot of agreement that that had to be the most confidence inspiring miss ever.

            Unfortunately, that inspiration proved to be short lived as that kick, to this point, seems like a complete anomaly.

          • JofreyRice

            He’s 23rd in FG % and 24th in Touchback percentage. He’s neither a power kicker, nor an accurate one.

            Serious question, how many times have you personally sang “Happy Birthday”, as part of a small group, to Alex?

            EDIT: Had tables arranged for FGM.

          • theycallmerob

            dang…..facts!

        • Michael Deen

          Is this sarcasm? I have a really hard time thinking Chip or Fipp trusts him at all from beyond 45 yards. They had him Squib kick in a dome for heaven sake. What kicker can’t consistently get touch backs in a dome?

        • Token

          A Alex Henery fluffer? Its always shocking. Every single player will always have at least one die hard fan. Alex tickles your fancy huh? Why? Is he your cousin? Can you name a big kick he has ever made in 3 years?

          • Matt

            No, I just like facts. I hate when people have theories that go against facts.

          • Token

            Ok fact man. What was his percentage from beyond 40. Beyond 45. Touchback percentage. And again. What big kicks has he ever made in 3 years.

          • JofreyRice

            It’s amazing what contrarians will take up as a cause. Defending Alex Henery as “good”. Holy cow.

          • Andy124

            Honest question. Were you aware of Henery’s rankings in FG% and KO distance (facts) before you formulated your theory that Alex Henery is average?

            I mean, it could be that you just honestly thought his numbers were better than they are. You can always say, “Oh shit, learned something today.” Or you could just be having a little fun on the webz. Who knows?

        • Andy124

          He was 8-12 from beyond 40 this year. That’s actually one of the lowest percentages in the league.

          The guy isn’t the worst kicker ever, but no fan wants to go in to a game thinking the other team has a big advantage over us at any given position 90% of the time.

    • Matt

      Except he hasn’t missed many 48 yard FGs. He made two on the year, as well as a 49 and a 51.

      • Tag

        Here’s your fact – Henery 2/5 from 50+ yards in 3 YEARS

        • aub32

          How many kickers are above 60% when kicking 50+ yard FGs?

  • JofreyRice

    “It’s one of those things where you can’t worry about losing your job. It’s like if you’re worrying about losing your job. ” As eloquent a speaker as he is accurate a kicker.

    • Will

      Based on his performance it’s not a worry but rather a given…I’ll drive the dope to the bus station myself see ya!

      • Guest

        Except its not. His performance says he should stay.

        • Richard Colton

          I smell a rat

          • Matt

            I smell facts.

          • theycallmerob

            It’s not just accuracy, it’s leg strength. did you miss this part of the article? facts, after all:

            Aaron Schatz of Football Outsiders published an article in the New York Times back in 2006 arguing that field-goal accuracy will fluctuate from year to year for NFL kickers, but kickoff numbers stay consistent.

            Henery ranked 21st in kickoffs (62.7 yards) in 2013, although the intentionally short ones against the Vikings must be taken into account. But in 2012, Henery was 23rd (63.3). And in 2011, he was 18th (65.0).

          • Will

            Rob repost that list of available kicker’s….think there were 10…wonder were Alex Henry fits into that list as far as skill and performance…………plenty of other good Kicker’s out there in FA…

          • theycallmerob

            Rotoworld.com

          • JofreyRice

            Wow, you’re like one of the Vick fans, except for Alex Henery. All Henery support, all the time. Far out.

          • Richard Colton

            Hey look, somebody bought an Alex Henery jersey and wants another season of wear.

          • Will

            LMAO…must be it …LMAO…

          • Richard Colton

            was going to go with “…give me a touchback or give me death” – would that have been lost on you too?

          • theycallmerob

            I guess Henery is posting?

          • JofreyRice

            Gotta be a troll, although I would have liked the handle “#6″ better.

          • Richard Colton

            Henry’s done a lot of great things in this league, but at this point he’s just a name. I want to go with someone younger and less injury prone at the kicker position. I mean, does anyone think he’ll last an entire year with his style of kicking?
            Sure, he’s flashy, but ask yourself this – after all his years in the league, can he “read” an opposing hands team? I’m done with Henry. Lets turn the page.

          • theycallmerob

            Hahahha well done.

          • Andy124

            The beauty of this post brought a tear to my eye.

          • Matt

            No, just a guy who likes facts.

        • Will

          We shall see …bring in a kicker who went 6 for 6 over 50 yards and Henry pales in Comparison…Graham Gano had 63 touchbacks 24/27 FG’s Gano hit 6 for 6 over 50……way better kicker…Henry was 23/28 51 long…with 37 touchbacks…those are the facts draw your on conclusion…I will still volunteer to drive Alex Henry to the bus stop….

        • Beastmode

          Sup Alex? You hittin the gym just in time to get your ass cut this spring, holmes?

      • Safety1st

        Additionally, statements don’t exactly exude self-confidence when given in the 2nd person.

    • Dominik

      Great one!

  • Broadcasting Wisdom

    Henery is one of the best 25 kickers in the world, maybe even top 20. His problem is that the top 10-12 kickers right now are leaps and bounds ahead of the next tier of guys, which makes him look terrible by comparison.

    If we can get one of those top guys, do it; otherwise, bring in some other competition, and if need be we can live with the 20th best kicker for another season. I think it is harder than people think to find quality kickers – and there is so much variability year to year – next year Henery could be back to his most accurate kicker in college/ rookie NFL history, etc.

    I’m also not completely sold that a kicker can’t improve his strength on kickoffs. He’s still a young guy. Another full off-season with captain science can’t generate an extra 3-4 yards on those kickoffs (which is really all we’re talking about)?

    • aub32

      His kickoffs have gotten better since his rookie campaign. Fans are forgetting to factor in the elements. Did anyone see how short the Saints kicker was able to place the ball.? None of his kicks even reached the 5 yard line.

  • Scott J

    Henery is another Andy Reid draft reach.

    • ACViking

      Don’t blame Reid.

      That 4th Rd choice in 2011 was Roseman all the way.

      Lurie and Roseman never disputed that after Rd 2, Roseman made the choices.

      • Andy124

        Fortunately, Howie has shown an ability to learn from mistakes. Nowie know that the 4th round is too late to draft a kicker.

  • Will

    Kickers

    1. Steven Hauschka
    2. Phil Dawson
    3. Adam Vinatieri
    4. Josh Brown
    5. Jay Feely
    6. Dan Carpenter
    7. Graham Gano
    8. Billy Cundiff
    9. Shayne Graham
    10. Rian Lindell
    11. Nick Folk
    12. David Akers
    13. Dan Bailey
    14. Alex Henry- should be available soon…

    Kickers available to replace Alex Henry….all in a 700,000.00 – 1 million range…

  • JBShakes

    I’m not sure I’m in total agreement that “a pass rusher” is necessarily a
    MUST in terms of high-profile offseason adds. Cole and Barwin are
    proven commodities in the league (although adding some depth is probably
    a good idea), but wouldn’t it be better to focus on getting somebody in
    the middle of the defensive line that can collapse the pocket to make
    the outside rushers more effective? I wonder how much better the pass
    rush would be if we had a guy like Louis Nix keeping opposing QBs from
    stepping up into the pocket.

  • Cyrus Robinson

    If Henery actually puts in time at the gym and stops looking like a junior varsity soccer player masquerading in a football uniform maybe he’ll keep his job. He makes it seem like having a weak leg is something he can’t control. He’s 6-1 and has been in the NFL for 3 seasons… How is he still just 177 pounds? Has he just watched everyone else workout for these past 3 years? Maybe he can pick up a weight or two just in case he ever needs to, you know, actually tackle someone on special teams or kick touchbacks without divine intervention. Just a thought.

    • Beastmode

      Seriously. Get some MetRx or hgh for crissakes. Dude does not look like an nfl player. Remember Akers launching himself at that Giants coach ??? That’s what we need, yo.

    • cliff henny

      or recover a fumble that hits him right in the gut. gawd, i hate kickers.

  • NickS1

    Just read Lazor is going to the Lions as OC

    • Richard Colton

      linc please? also, you’re a jerk. I was having a good day.

      • theycallmerob

        I’ll second that

      • NickS1

        Team Stream update.

      • Richard Colton

        OK – Ed Werder is reporting it, but says its not a done deal until they announce Caldwell as HC.

        • NickS1

          Well hopefully they’re all wrong. Sorry to be the bearer of bad news.

          • Richard Colton

            You’ve changed since you became N$1. Its like I dont even know you anymore.

          • theycallmerob

            careful….he’ll $tomp you out. man has $treet cred now

          • NickS1

            Dag yo, why you gotsta play me like dat

          • Richard Colton

            Lions read Dutch’s scouting report on Foles, then figured Lazor must have been a miracle worker. I guess it was bound to happen. Hopefully it proves less Jon Harbough and more Steve Spagnola.

          • NickS1

            Tearing ACLs at age 30 will do that.

        • cliff henny

          how many retred hires is that this yr? so glad lurie and howie found new blood.

    • anon

      CBS Sports’ Jason La Canfora reports Colts QBs coach Clyde Christensen
      is Lions coach Jim Caldwell’s “top choice” to serve as Detroit’s
      offensive coordinator.

      • NickS1

        That’s what I got on Team Stream.

  • ACViking

    The Lions already are a better team by jettisoning Schwartz and replacing him with a coach who (i) is not as emotional as N-Suh, and (ii) putting Lazor in charge of Stafford. They just won 2 more games right there with Lazor — IF TRUE.

    Very curious to see what happens on defense. Only insanity would cause them to keep using the Wide 9.

    • theycallmerob

      Jim Caldwell likely to take Ravens secondary coach Teryl Austin with him to Detroit as defensive coordinator.— Albert Breer (@AlbertBreer) January 14, 2014

      • ACViking

        TCMR:

        Thanks. I wonder if that means the Lions will switch to some version of the 3-4?

        • theycallmerob

          I’d imagine, although wouldn’t that weaken the strength of their defense (the DTs)? Could Suh or Fairley play DE, even in a 1gap scheme (which I imagine they’d lean towards). Another variable will be Ansah; curious if they leave him at DE or move to OLB.

          Very interesting to see them in a year or two. IMO, they’re right up there with GB in terms of talent; having a good coach may provide that missing link. Although Caldwell did take a lot of heat as the “sideline zombie” during his IND tenure.

          And in case you missed it: Sheil (and others) just reported on Lazor signing as their OC. Curious how he does with Stafford, who clearly doesn’t want to be coached hard: http://www.nfl.com/news/story/0ap2000000304705/article/matthew-stafford-doesnt-want-to-work-with-qb-guru

          • ACViking

            TCMR:

            I agree re: the strength of the Lions’ D-line: right in the middle w/ Suh and Fairly. But if Detroit went to the 1-gap 34, the Lions essentially would be playing a 4-3 under. (You know that whole discussion!)

            Did see the new 24-7 post on Lazor.

            Foles will have his 3rd QB coach in 3 years. I understand that Kelly’s the guy laying the guidelines for how the QB coach addresses his students.

            But 3 position coaches in 3 years? Not ideal.

          • theycallmerob

            cannot agree more re: the coaching carousel, may not be extremely detrimental but surely not beneficial.
            Let’s just hope we beat DET in the race for the ever-difficult-to-unearth OLB with a knack for getting to the QB

          • Andy124

            At least the system won’t be changing.

  • thefadd

    It’s not just Dawkins that spoiled us. A decade of David Akers — easily the most consistently strong kicker in the league over that time — made us forget about the days of Louis Zendejas. We could do a lot better than Henery. We could also do a lot worse.

  • GEAGLE

    Even Dessan Nino’s continuity matters