By the end of the 2013 season, it was painfully obvious the Philadelphia Eagles needed a new kicker. Alex Henery’s inability to consistently boom kickoffs out of the end zone—in a dome, mind you—compelled the Birds to attempt a series of unsuccessful squib and mortar kicks in a Week 15 loss to the Minnesota Vikings. Then Henery missed a 48-yard field goal badly in a 26-24 first-round playoff loss to the New Orleans Saints.
We can all count. Those points would’ve helped.
The Eagles seem to realize Henery has his shortcomings, to put it mildly, otherwise they would not have used a roster spot on Carey Spear, aka Murderleg, the undrafted kicker out of Vanderbilt. Yet as special teams coach Dave Fipp explained to Reuben Frank for CSNPhilly.com, improving from Henery could be a challenge.
You see, Fipp is under the (mistaken) impression that Henery is an above-average NFL kicker.
“At the end of the day he’s still a really good kicker,” Fipp said. “There are a lot of teams that would like to have a kicker as accurate as him on their team.
“Would you like him to be better on kickoffs? Sure you would. But if you take both of those stats, where does he rank in the league in [field goals and kickoffs], and add 'em up and divide by two … he’s roughly the 14th-best kicker in this league.
“So there’s 17 teams that want a guy as good as him.”
It’s not entirely clear where Fipp comes up with the numbers for his own little ranking system. Last season, Henery finished 23rd in field-goal percentage and tied for 20th in touchback percentage, so clearly he wasn’t adding up the raw numbers.
Earlier in his conversation with Roob, Fipp points out that Henery has attempted—and missed—field goals attempts of 60 and 61 yards during his three-year NFL career. If we take those out of the equation, Henery’s career accuracy improves dramatically.
But therein lies part of the problem. More and more kickers in today’s league can make that kick. Six of the 14 field goals of 60 or more yards made in NFL history were hit in the past three seasons alone. There is no need to act like it’s some impossible feat.
Furthermore, 60 yards isn’t the real issue. One reason Henery’s percentage is as high as it is is because two separate coaching staffs have trusted him to attempt a total of five field goals of 50 or longer. In 2013 alone, 17 kickers attempted a minimum of five field goals field goals from those distances.
Of the 143 long-distance field goals tried in 2013, 67 percent connected.
What good is Henery’s supposed accuracy if you can’t even put him on the field for what has become a fairly routine play in pro football?
We won’t even delve in very deep on kickoffs. Henery has ranked 20th, 23rd and t-20th in touchback percentage since entering the league. In other words, he’s below average at half of his job, nor has he shown much improvement at this point.
Fipp is hoping Henery learns to kick the ball at a different strike point. I am decidedly less hopeful.
Suggesting there are 17 teams that want a kicker as good as Henery is an egregious claim to say the least. Frankly, his lack of leg strength makes him a borderline NFL player at best, because booming touchbacks and kicking long-distance field goals are becoming focal points of the evaluation process at that position. With that in mind, it’s actually baffling to think the Eagles used a fourth-round pick on Henery in 2011.
Thankfully, that’s a mistake the team may not have to live with for much longer. We know with a nickname like Murderleg that Spear can crush the ball. If he’s even close to as accurate as Henery, that means an undrafted kicker out of Vanderbilt is probably the better option.