Eagles Counting On an Improved Henery

Photo by: Jeff Fusco.

Photo by: Jeff Fusco.

During one special teams portion of practice Tuesday, return man Nolan Carroll II set up around the goal line to return a kickoff.

As Alex Henery booted the ball, Carroll back-pedaled until he was about to run into the field-goal post and ultimately realized he’d be unable to field it.




The players were in shorts, the pressure was non-existent, and this was only one kick. But it was an image Chip Kelly and the coaching staff are counting on seeing more of in 2014.

"Yeah, I think he's gotten a little bit stronger in terms of the distance he's kicking the ball and in terms of where we are placing the ball during kickoff drill," said Kelly when asked about Henery. "Excited to see where it is, especially when we get into some real live situations. The tough thing with the kickers is we can't rush them, we can't do anything. A lot of times right now it's like they are going out on the driving range and hitting balls. It's not real live action for them. Again it's another position where we won't have anything determined until we get into preseason camp and get into some preseason games."

There are different ways to measure the effectiveness of kickers. Overall field goal percentage is largely irrelevant because it doesn't take distance into account.

Brian Solomon of McNabbOrKolb.com did the best kicker study I've seen this offseason. For field goals, he measured each kicker against the league average, taking distance into account. Solomon found that Henery ranked 26th when compared to his peers. Football Outsiders, meanwhile, ranked the Eagles 25th on field goals/extra points.

In all, Henery missed six of 30 field goal attempts. Five of those were from 45+ yards out. Two missed wide right, and four missed wide left.

"This time of year, everything’s about corrections," Henery said. "Just going and looking back at what went wrong on those that you did miss and just getting those out of there. If you hit 10 good balls, you don’t want that one bad one. So it’s just getting in there, hitting the consistent ball and eliminating those."

On kickoffs, the study showed Henery to be 32nd in the NFL. Football Outsiders ranked the Eagles 31st as a team. And they notched kickoffs just 40 percent of the time (24th in the NFL).

"No," Henery said when asked if he was happy with his kickoff percentage. "I think I can always get better. The thing I worked on a lot is to get that number up - more touchbacks so we don’t have to cover as many kicks."

Henery said the Eagles didn't have any special sports science suggestions for improving his leg strength.

"A lot of it’s technique," he said. "You don’t have to be the biggest guy to be able to kick the ball the farthest. Like golf, some little guys can hit the ball farther than the big guys. So a lot of it’s technique, just getting your steps right, hitting the ball where you want to hit it, and it’ll fly for you.

"I wasn’t too consistent with my steps, and that would cause me to hit more higher balls on my kickoffs. So just getting more consistent with those, and then hopefully the ball will fly farther and get a little higher up."

The Eagles signed Carey Spear as an undrafted free agent, but at this point it would be an upset if he unseated Henery this summer.

For now, the team is counting on Henery's offseason work leading to better results once the games begin to count in September.

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  • JosephR2225

    ….. Yuck.

  • Eagles1018

    Noodleleg is going to beat Murderleg. I guess I can’t be mad if bringing in somebody made him step up and realize his job is not cushy where he can just relax. I’m still mad at the Saints game. We lost by 2 and he missed a fg early on. And he booted a horrible kick off after our go ahead TD. I’m hopeful for a vast improvement or that they take a replacement much more serious next year.

    • cliff henny

      doubt ML was last of competition. bet a vet is brought in for camp. wonder who is on the streets, think Rob Bironas is, if i’m not mistaken. be nice to see a list of available guys.

      • guest

        Google “available kickers” and you’ll have your list.

      • southy

        whatever happened to that Norwegian fellow that lost out to Akers in Detroit?

    • Bdawkbdawk

      I don’t really buy into the competition narrative for NFL kickers. You’re telling me that a kicker needs the threat of losing his job in minicamp to work hard and stay motivated? I think the threat of missing a kick in the NFL (and all of the humiliation that comes along with it) is more than enough motivation for these guys. No way Henery missed those kicks because he wasn’t trying hard enough.

      More likely, kicking is just a difficult aspect of the game that is prone to massive variation year-to-year because of the small sample sizes. Imagine if Foles only got 30-40 throws a season. AND imagine if those throws were the throws he made against Dallas in the first game. People would be calling him a bum.

      Moreover, we still don’t have a very thorough understanding of how the snap and hold factor into the kicking process. Throughout his career, Henery just seems to be an average to below average kicker. Maybe he will do a lot better this year (i sure hope so). It’s just very difficult to find these guys and predict how they will play before the season.

      • myeaglescantwin

        have u ever played footbal??

        kickers have the life.no conditioning, easy peezy practice schedule.

        Picture the guy from the replacements. That’s what kickers are like.

        • Bdawkbdawk

          Yea, youre wrong; that’s not what kickers are like at all. Maybe back in the day when you had QBs smoking cigs on the bench, or in highschool/low D college schools where kicking is either viewed as magic or as finding a washed up soccer player. But, kicking technique, training, and instruction really bloomed in the mid 90s.

          By easy peezy practice schedule do you mean that they don’t run sprints or the nebraska drill, because, if so, you’re right. But they spend a ridiculous amount of time with kicking coaches, specialists, and sports psychologists so that in one of their 30-40 kicks a season they don’t let down the 50 dudes who have spent the year hitting the crap out of each other. I know that Hauschka worked his tail off, and he was only kicking at Middlebury at the time.

          • myeaglescantwin

            obviously i was being facetious.

            we won a state title on a 47-yd kick against the 7th ranked team in the nation, in December, in 27 degree weather and 10-mph wind.

            during practice, our kicker, David King, would start at the 35 and kick at each side of the goal post aiming to hit the upright. And he could.
            he had a kicking coach and a special teams coach that would spend the entire practice with the K & P’s.

            kicking is the ultimate pressure position.
            even if it’s for only 7 seconds of a game.

        • Johnny Domino

          If only all kickers were like that.
          Nigel could be on my squad any day.

          http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=sN7r7nk0-zc

      • Dan

        As your local neighborhood computational statistician, I could not agree more. People always forget randomness year-over-year. For kickers this is huge. A guy going 28/30 (93%) is actually not even statistically distinguishable from a guy going 24/30 (78%)*. That’s roughly the range between pro-bowl and getting cut in a given year.

        Historically kickoff distance is much more stable than accuracy year-over-year, which doesn’t bode well for Henery.

        ########
        *[In case you don’t believe me, the standard deviation of a Bernoulli Random Variable (variable that is either a 0 or a 1 with a probability of p) is: sqrt( p* (1-p) / n ). So for a kicker’s accuracy rate on the year that’s roughly a standard deviation of sqrt( 80%*20%/30 ) = 7.4%. 2 standard deviations is ~15%. ]

  • willissez

    Silver lining: At least he seems to be aware that he sucked last year.

    • Ark87

      How could he not? That’s what we’re here for. That’s the silver lining we provide for every athlete in Philly.

    • dnabrice

      That might be the problem…..It got into his head. Just like it would get into Aker’s head towards the end of his Philly tenure.

    • Wiztopher

      Doesn’t take much for a kicker to know he Sux: he makes a fg or not. One job to do.

  • shady25

    Ok, so my thing is. Why would you bring in an undrafted rookie free agent kicker to compete against this guy. Was it just for an extra camp body? I can go to NFL.com right now and pull up a long list of free agent kickers in the NFL. Any one of these guys would provide legit competition. Not a rookie free agent who is known for tackling more than kicking. Unless they thought they were going to get lucky and end up with another Justin Tucker. I think the front office dropped the ball on this one. It’s not too late though. Can always ditch this guy before TC and bring in a veteran kicker to legitimately compete with Henery.

  • Bird of Prey

    It’s just hard for me to believe there aren’t kicking coaches like qb coaches or an academy somewhere for kickers where some guru has a method for optimizing a kicker’s potential. Weird.

    • Ark87

      You don’t need to provide method, wisdom, or any of that nonsense when you provide fear:
      http://wac.9ebf.edgecastcdn.net/809EBF/ec-origin.philly.barstoolsports.com/files/2013/06/dave-fipp-looks-nuts.jpg

      • cliff henny

        besides the obvious, eyes, look at those canines…he’s part vampire! my shepherd would’ve been proud of those bad boys

        • Ark87

          Yeah, if Fipp tells you to kick a 55 yard field goal with that smile, you’d best find a way.

          “Kick it Alex….Kick it…don’t disappoint me…”

          • cliff henny

            hope Fipp has a creepy Ray Liotta-like laugh, and does so at inappropiate and unfunny times

      • paul from nc

        Now that looks like a real football player.

  • Jim Blizzard

    I don’t claim to be a big fan of Henery but he is 26 years old and has improved his FG% and Kickoff Average Distance each year. I can’t seem to find a list of kickers ages but I would be willing to bet he is one of the youngest in the league. Lets give him a chance to fill out his frame and gain some strength.

    • Dominik

      “and has improved his FG% and Kickoff Average Distance each year”

      With improved, you mean decline? 2011: 88.9, 2012: 87.1, 2013: 82.1

      And how can you improve your Kickoff average if your 32th in the league?

      • Jim Blizzard

        Wow you are right I read the chart upside down, thanks for the correction…. That said you can still improve your average even if you are last in the league… You would still suck but it can happen….

        • DoctorRick

          And now you feel our pain. And it coould, could happen, but it just does not seem like a good bet. The wild card here is that I can’t believe the FO and coaching staff is as clueless as they would have to be to take improvement in Henerey’s game as a given. They must know something else or have another plan. I hope. Dang, now I’m sounding hopey-changey. slap me.

  • Dominik

    “Solomon found that Henery ranked 26th when compared to his peers. Football Outsiders, meanwhile, ranked the Eagles 25th on field goals/extra points.”

    “On kickoffs, the study showed Henery to be 32nd in the NFL. Football Outsiders ranked the Eagles 31st as a team.”

    If there won’t be a vet in TC, I don’t get what Kelly is doing here at all. It’s one thing to not cut the guy (it would be well deserved), but give him some real competetion, will you? If he beats the real competetion, fine. If he sucks again during the season, cut him and go to the street. If he finds a way to not suck: fine.

    Henery has really found a way to make me angry. :)

    • JosephR2225

      There weren’t really FA options available that would be that much better than Henery. The best was probably Rob Bironas who is, at best, marginally better than Henery.

      • Dominik

        At best marginally? Bironas has 113 TBs in the last 3 years, Henery 95. He had a bad 2012, but other than that, he has good % (except his first two years in the league). Plus, and that’s a big plus, in his worst year, he had a season long of 51 – Henerys best. Other than that, it’s mostly 53 or 55. He has a big leg and was mostly pretty accurate. That’s a combination Henery hasn’t.

        Couldn’t we just agree that we at least should bring him in for competition? If Henery is better than him he should get the job. I doubt it, but OK. But not without a fight. The guy should be far, far away from earning a roster spot without a fight. And murderleg seems to be a joke rather than a fight.

        Ironically, Donnie Football had to beat out Wing last summer. Crazy dude, but a pretty good punter.

    • cliff henny

      funny last line, but true. i can ‘live’ with NO’s missed FG cause 10-6 home playoff game was my tippytop 12 beer drubk talk ceiling. but if it’s NFCCG and 40 secs left down 2 and Henery comes out for a 45 yder, the opponent better not call an icing TO my heart wont be able to take extra long stress of knowing he’s going to shank it

  • peteike

    Im all for players improving, but then come playoff time and or any crucial point in a season you have to trust the guy. Thats not there and its too important, theres got to be better guys out there, there always are with kickers. At least it seems that way.

  • Mikeq

    Gosh, I hope #91 didn’t get hurt when he walked straight into that giant oak tree….oh wait, that’s just his left leg. Never mind.

    • anon

      yeah not sure why he chose those shorts

  • Jerry Pomroy

    I think the thought process is that a pick was used on Henery and he did prove ‘early on’ to be able to kick in the NFL. So I’m guessing that their trying to capitalize on that pick panning out & not have a rotating door of kickers year in year out to find a guy that sticks. But I can’t see them sticking it out another year with him in ’15 if he doesn’t improve this year.

    Personally, I look at kickers in somewhat the same light as a closer in baseball. They’ve got to have that same mentality to be able to go out in pressure situations and perform. A killer instincts if you will. I don’t see Henery as that type of guy. I think Akers fit that mold for a good amount of years up until his last few years.

  • JakFTW

    Sheil – I think you meant touchbacks? here: “And they notched kickoffs just 40 percent of the time (24th in the NFL).

    “No,” Henery said when asked if he was happy with his kickoff percentage.”

  • Wiztopher

    What’s it going to take? Another playoff loss? I have mad faith in Chip but, at the end of the day, kickers can miss a few, but only have to be clutch when it counts most n this turkey necked Noodleleg is not clutch. He has NO confidence in his gait, NO strength in his look. In fact, every time they show his face it DRIPS of fear. Cut his ass n sign a proven NFL veteran kicker. Sure, he was a phenom in college, but he’s asked to make big boy kicks now in the NFL. Takes a great amount of luck to draft a kicker n have em pan out. I can only name two: Tucker from Bmore n Janikowski from Oakland, but even he was meh.

  • DoctorRick

    “Eagles Counting On an Improved Henery” — the heading of this article

    This is way too hopey-changey for me. A question for those with more history on outcomes of kicker projects. Is there any significant historic evidence that kickers can ever improve enough to go from 32 nd onkickoffs to even the upper half?

  • DoctorRick

    OK, I have here-by figured all this kicker stuff out.
    It’s not that complicated.

    The plan is to wait until we get further through the off season and other better kickers are released and we pick one of them up without having invested anything more than hope and some change in the process. All it will take to validate this theory is to start to list good kickers out there who probably won’t make it out of the pre season.
    Eazy-sheezy.

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