Alex Henery finally has some competition.
The Eagles after the draft signed former Vanderbilt kicker Carey Spear -- aka "Murderleg" -- as a rookie free agent. For a guy whose career has been nearly devoid of competition -- he's been the first-team kicker since his freshman year at Nebraska and hadn't been challenged as an Eagle -- Henery seems to be handling the pressure well.
Henery needs to improve on last season's pedestrian performance, and he says Spear's presence will help.
“Competition is always good. It makes everyone better,” Henery said Monday after practice during OTAs (see observations from practice). “It’s just one of those things where it’s an individual thing. We’re both different in how we get the ball up. In the end, it pushes you to get better.”
During team drills, Henery’s composure showed, as he calmly hit a field goal of nearly 50 yards. Maybe the nerves got to Spear instead, as the rookie pulled a short one wide -- really wide -- left.
Henery’s kicking percentages have gone down each of the two years since his rookie campaign, though. A fourth-round pick in the 2011 draft, Henery hit 24 of 27 field-goal attempts (88.9 percent) as a rookie. But his percentage dipped to 87.1 in 2012 and dropped to 82.1 percent this past season.
He also did little to silence critics of his leg strength, making only eight of his 12 attempts from 40 yards or more.
Some of the issues, Henery admits, are small, correctable ones -- and he had plenty of time to correct them.
“I always compared things to the golf swing,” Henery said. “It’s just if you’re doing something really small that’s making your drive go slice on you, there’s things to correct and you have to make sure every time you’re doing that.
“When you do that, you build a rhythm down, and then it becomes second nature.”
Henery also has spent a lot of time in the offseason back home in Omaha, Nebraska working on another part of his game that drew the ire of his critics: kickoffs. Last season, the 26-year-old found himself in the bottom half of the league’s kickers with 37 touchbacks on 90 kickoffs.
He averaged only 62 yards per kickoff, and opponents returned 52 of them, fifth most in the league.
“If you play golf, it’s a lot like that,” Henery said. “Just finding the one that gets that ball strike you like.
“Kicking-wise, look at Sebastian Janikowski and me. Totally different kickers and totally different ways of kicking, but we can both produce results, just like a golfer. You get your bigger, taller golfers and then you get your smaller guys who are smaller than me that can hit the ball a mile. It’s a lot of technique.”