Eagles rookie kickers ready to handle the pressure

Eagles rookie kickers ready to handle the pressure
August 15, 2011, 8:13 pm
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BETHLEHEM, Pa. -- Asante Samuel raised his arms, started to holler and implored the fans watching the morning practice at Lehigh to raise their voices and make some noise with him.

Those in attendance at the Eagles morning practice at training camp on Monday happily obliged.

So, Alex Henery, the Eagles fourth-round draft pick and David Akers' replacement calmly, smoothly kicked the 50-yard attempt and tucked in inside the right post.

What pressure?

I was hitting the ball the best Ive hit it out here today, he said.

While Henery made that kick and had an overall good day, it hasnt been all sunshine and rainbows for the Nebraska product. Far from it.

Henery has had an inconsistent camp. Even on Monday, the day he said was his best, he missed several kicks. One terrible miss on a 53-yarder even prompted one fan to yell out, A fourth-round pick? For that?"

Welcome to Philadelphia. Welcome to a city with Super Bowl aspirations and a team with a chance of winning it all. Welcome to a city where Akers played 12 seasons, made five Pro Bowls and became the franchises all-time points leader.

Pressure what pressure?

If you let the pressure get to you, all the outside stuff can get in your mind, Henery said. I dont let that kind of stuff, what people say, get to me.

So there was the rookie kicker, with the Eagles faithful watching and making game-like noise at Samuels request. Henery was aware of it all; he just didnt care.

Its something I didnt even really take notice to and just go out there and hit it like I usually do, he said.

The Birds new kicker didnt care about the added noise during his kick at training camp, but special teams coach Bobby April did. In fact, he was delighted.

I thought it was good, April said with a smile. Oh yeah, I like that. I wish it was louder. I think its an energy booster. I think it gets everybody involved, lets everybody know how important the play is and it puts Alex in the mind of this is a big kick because hes gonna kick a bunch of big ones.

Kicking big ones isnt new to Henery, who had to make a ton of important kicks in college at Nebraska.

Likewise, new undrafted rookie punter Chas Henry, who also serves as Henerys holder, punted in many big games in college at Florida.

Fortunately, that was one of the reasons we liked them, April said. Theyve both been in pressure. I mean really big-time pressure situations.

Its a little different in the NFL because its a national, 247 pressure, but theyve played in big games where theres a lot of chips on the table.

Henry first met Henery at the Senior Bowl and then got to know him even more at the Combine. Henry said that long snapper Jon Dorenbos, an eight-year NFL veteran, has been the perfect guy to show the two rookies the ropes.

The trio spends most of training camp together practicing, getting better and solidifying its routine.

Just working on timing it up with the snapper and holder and getting ready for the season, Henery said. It hasnt been too bad. The first few days it took a little bit of adjusting. Today I really felt that we were in a routine.

The routine is important for snappers, kickers and holders. This season that cohesion was even harder to form because of the lockout. They had even less time than normal to prepare thanks to the work stoppage.

Interestingly enough though, April thinks the lockout and the time off might actually turn out to be beneficial to the pair of rookies.

Itd be nice to have workouts in the off-season, but it will also keep them fresher, April said. Otherwise, they would have kicked for almost an entire year and then had to go through a season. Maybe they would be a little ahead right now with their consistency and striking it, but would they be better players in December? I dont know. I think their legs might give out.

There are still things on which both rookies need to work. Henry booted just a 28-yarder for his last punt in the Eagles first preseason game.

And while Henery may have nailed the 50-yarder in the face of Samuels noise-maker, hes struggled to be consistent something hes not used to after making 90 percent of his collegiate attempts.

You know theyre talented and you just keep wanting them to climb that mountain until they get to the summit, April said. Im pleased with the progression. I want them to be accelerated and every day I want to see them get better. And sometimes they flat line and sometimes they dip a little bit, but theyre gonna be there. Theyre gonna be there.

No pressure.
E-mail Dave Zangaro at dzangaro@comcastsportsnet.com