Assuming Alex Henery loses his job as placekicker for the Philadelphia Eagles, it won’t be because he had a turbulent preseason, or he hit a rough patch, or he isn’t clutch, or he is having a bad year. In one late-August evening at Lincoln Financial Field, Cody Parkey demonstrated everything that was wrong with the Henery era all along.
Parkey connected on field goals of 53 and 54 yards during the Birds’ final preseason game of 2014, a 37-7 romp over the New York Jets, all of which would’ve been impressive in its own right. Acquired in a trade with the Indianapolis Colts just last week, Parkey’s performance in particular—especially in light of the fact those field goals were longer than any kick Henery has made since his NFL debut in 2011.
This was not by accident. Two separate Eagles coaching staffs over three-plus years have only entrusted Henery to so much as attempt a grand total of five field goals of 50 or more yards during the regular season or playoffs. To put the number five in perspective, 17 kickers in the NFL attempted at least that many in 2013 alone.
Henery’s ineffectiveness from distance was never more pronounced than in January’s 26-24 postseason loss to the New Orleans Saints.
On a bitter-cold January night, his first playoff game, the former fourth-round pick out of Nebraska failed to put a 48-yard attempt through the end zone, let alone through the uprights. Meanwhile, later in the same quarter, Shayne Graham—signed off the street by New Orleans two weeks earlier—would make a 46-yarder, albeit at the opposite end of the stadium.
Struggles with leg strength are something that extends to kickoffs as well. Henery’s touchback rate has never ranked better than 20th among kickoff specialists. At 27 years old, this is something that’s not likely to improve.
Henery’s struggles with accuracy were the last straw, and they go all the way back through last season. 82.1 percent in ‘13 was the lowest conversion rate of his career, and good for 23rd in the NFL. Henery is 1-of-3 for the preseason with a miss from 31 yards.
We don’t know much about Parkey as NFL kicker, but we know the Eagles can’t go on like this.
With three field goals on Thursday, Parkey upped his total to 5-for-5 during the preseason. He’s also boomed eight of 16 kickoffs for touchbacks, which matches Henery’s pace this summer, but would exceed Parkey’s career rate. An undrafted free agent out of Auburn, Parkey led the nation in touchbacks last year as a senior.
There are reasons to be skeptical of Parkey’s ability. For instance, he only kicked touchbacks six percent more often than fellow rookie SECer Carey Spear, who failed to threaten Henery this summer. And why would the Colts not at least consider Parkey to replace 41-year-old Adam Vinatieri if he’s so good, opting instead to send the kid to Philly in exchange for David Fluellen?
Then again, does it matter? Parkey’s kicks were like a breath of fresh air. He may not be the long-term answer for the Eagles at kicker, but Parkey managed to do more to instill confidence in onlookers in one game than Henery ever did in three seasons. It’s time to move on and never look back.