Was It a Mistake to Move On from David Akers?

Was It a Mistake to Move On from David Akers?

In the annals of the Philadelphia Eagles, never has a place kicker been so beloved as David Akers. He was certainly the best in franchise history, but for a specialist, the love fans have for Akers is almost unnatural. I mean, who buys the kicker's jersey?

Needless to say, it sparked a bit of an uproar when Andy Reid, pressed about the field goals Akers missed in a 21-16 playoff loss against the Packers in 2010, admitted, "We can all count. Those points would have helped." Fans worked themselves into a fervor when the front office drafted Alex Henery in the fourth round the following April, and removed the transition tag from Akers as soon as the lockout ended, making the Eagle of 12 years an unrestricted free agent.

All Akers went on to do with the San Francisco 49ers in 2011 was lead the NFL in points, so that obviously worked out well, right?

It certainly feeds the perception that management made a foolish decision when they refused to extend Akers. While Akers made headlines with a historic season that garnered first-team All-Pro honors, Henery did seemingly little of note, and at times it appeared he was handled with kid gloves. For that matter, when the Birds and Niners went head-to-head in Week 4, Henery missed two chip-shot field goals that wound up costing his side the game.

Not a good way to make people forget about the other guy, even when the other guy misses a couple of kicks himself that day.

Then again, not much of a way to declare a winner, either. That and Akers' great year are what's fresh in everybody's minds, but it's such a shallow depiction of events.

For starters, the fact that Akers led the league in points isn't proof alone that it was a mistake for the Eagles to move on. While a kicker has to be fairly sure-footed to be on top, he also needs to have plenty of attempts, and the 49ers gave him more chances than anybody -- in fact, it was a record number. With 52 tries, Akers had 11 more than the next most-utilized place kicker, Washington's Graham Gano, and broke the all-time total by three.

Granted Akers converted on his tries, just not exactly at an extraordinary rate. His 84.6 field goal percentage ranked 17th in the NFL, which is still fine, but it tells us he didn't exactly make the most of all his opportunities. Sure, he made the most of his tries from inside of 40 yards, leading the league with 32, and knocking all but one of those down.

40 and beyond was another story. Only a handful of kickers were worse on field goals between 40-49 yards, where Akers ranked 30th with only 54% through the uprights. And while he was amazingly 7-for-9 from 50+, that was highly unusual, as he was below 50% for his entire tenure with the Birds.

None of which is meant to defame Akers, who is still a great kicker that anybody would love to have, and you can't deny his impact on San Francisco's successful run in 2011. However, as is often the case, there are more to the numbers than meets the eye.

That goes for more than statistics. The Eagles did make an effort to retain Akers, or at least lended that appearance when they tagged him at the conclusion of 2010, but he made it perfectly clear he wasn't happy with a one-year deal that would have paid him around $3 million. The numbers the front office were likely looking at though were Akers' age (then 36) and the years they were willing to give.

Rather than counting on negotiations with an aging kicker who was coming off an awful post-season performance (even with the understanding he was experiencing some hard times off the field), the Eagles saw an opportunity to snag the top kicker coming out of college, and used one of their 11 selections that year to choose Henery out of Nebraska.

While the San Fran game looms large, otherwise it hasn't worked out poorly for the Birds at all. Henery missed just one more kick in 27 tries all year, a 63-yard attempt in Week 2 against the Falcons. That works out to a higher percentage (88.9) than Akers by the way -- in addition to setting the rookie record for that mark -- plus he was better from 40 and beyond, too (83.3 to 65).

Of course, Henery isn't nearly as battle tested, and he'll have to show a lot more and in clutch situations before anybody puts supreme confidence in his abilities. That said, given the circumstances you can't blame the Eagles for trying to get younger at a position where they were dealing with an unhappy veteran. Somewhere down the road, Akers is going to decline. When that happens, if everything has worked according to plan, the Birds will be set.

Union emotional after Maurice Edu's season-ending injury

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Union emotional after Maurice Edu's season-ending injury

CHESTER, Pa. — On the eve of his comeback after missing nearly 13 months with a left tibia stress fracture and other related injuries, Union midfielder Maurice Edu fractured his left fibula on Saturday, keeping him out for the 2016 playoffs and beyond.

“I was trying to take the shot on goal and my foot got stuck in the turf,” Edu said Sunday, in his blue Union-issued suit and supported by crutches. “My ankle rolled and twisted and it kind of snapped a little bit. I heard it crack, and a lot of pain from there. I got a scan afterward, and there was a break.”

There's no timetable his return.

Edu, 30, has spent over a calendar year fighting various injuries that have kept him out of game action. His trouble began on Sept. 30, 2015, when he played through the U.S. Open Cup final with a partially torn groin and sports hernia. It was during Edu’s recovery from those injuries that he developed a stress fracture.

"A little bit frustration. A lot of frustration, to be honest," he said. "But all I can do now is get back to work, focus on the positives and make sure that my situation isn’t a distraction from the team."

Edu’s teammates were equally devastated by the news. Edu, the Union captain when healthy, is popular and well-respected in the locker room.

"I feel so bad for him," said Alejandro Bedoya, who wore a dedication to Edu under his jersey on Sunday. "He’s one of my good friends, so I was looking forward to playing alongside him. I know how hard he’s worked to get back, and to see him go out like that, it’s heartbreaking. I’m sad for his loss and I hope he stays strong."

Edu, who has been with the Union since 2014, returned to training in July and played three conditioning appearances with the Union’s USL team, Bethlehem Steel FC. He was on the bench for the Union’s last three games and was set to make his first appearance in over a year against the New York Red Bulls on Sunday, a game the Union eventually lost, 2-0 (see game story).

"We’re gutted for Mo," Union manager Jim Curtin said. "He was slated to start today. It’s real upsetting because he’s worked so hard to get back on the field. It’s been a tough 2016 for him, but I know he’ll come back stronger."

While he was visibly shaken by recent injury, Edu is driven to return.

"What happened, happened," Edu said. "I have no control over that. The only thing I do have control over is my next steps from here, how I prepare myself mentally and emotionally and how I continue to support this group."

Eagles bring back Taylor Hart after stint with Chip Kelly

Eagles bring back Taylor Hart after stint with Chip Kelly

The Eagles have brought back a familiar face to take Ron Brooks' roster spot.

On Monday, the team claimed defensive tackle Taylor Hart off waivers from San Francisco. Hart was just waived on Saturday by the 49ers, who claimed him after the Eagles waived him at final cuts.

So, Hart is coming back to Philly after a stint with Chip Kelly in San Francisco.

Hart, 25, played in one game for the 49ers this year. The Eagles are light at defensive tackle thanks to Bennie Logan's groin injury. While head coach Doug Pederson on Monday said Logan was getting better, the Eagles still brought in more depth by claiming Hart.

While still with the Eagles, Kelly had a hand in drafting Hart, an Oregon product, in the fifth round of 2014.

Hart worked hard this offseason to learn how to play in Jim Schwartz's aggressive 4-3 defense, which is very unlike the ones he had played in during college and in the NFL.

Brooks has been placed on IR after rupturing a quad tendon during Sunday's game against the Vikings. He'll have surgery this week.

In addition to adding Hart to the active roster, the Eagles also added cornerback Aaron Grymes to their practice squad.

Grymes, 25, was having an impressive training camp and preseason with the Eagles before injuring his right shoulder. He was waived shortly after that.

After coming out of the University of Idaho in 2013, Grymes didn't make an NFL team so he went to Canada. He ended up as a starter and All-Star on the Edmonton Eskimos and won a Grey Cup in 2015.

To make room for Grymes, the Eagles cut OL Matt Rotheram from the practice squad.