Fipp: Henery 'roughly the 14th-best kicker' in NFL

Fipp: Henery 'roughly the 14th-best kicker' in NFL

Carey 'Muderleg' Spear on trying to make roster and his nickname

June 18, 2014, 8:00 am
Share This Post

Dave Fipp acknowledged Alex Henery's kickoffs have to be better. "Some of it is a strength thing," he said. (AP)

Dave Fipp keeps hearing how awful Alex Henery is and how the Eagles need to replace him and find another kicker and upgrade the position.
 
From Fipp’s perspective, that’s going to be really hard to do.
 
Fipp, now beginning his second year as Chip Kelly’s special teams coach, acknowledges that Henery has some weaknesses that he needs to work on but said Henery’s strengths make him the Eagles’ best option moving forward.
 
Henery's accuracy has dropped from 89 percent as a rookie to 87 percent in 2012 to 82 percent last year. And his kickoffs were among the worst in the NFL last year.
 
Fipp talked at length Monday about Henery and gave him a vote of confidence … sort of.
 
Henery has two jobs. Making field goals and kicking off. Fipp acknowledges that Henery must improve his kickoffs but believes he can. He also believes he’s a better placekicker than he gets credit for.
 
First, the kickoff issues.
 
Henery managed only 37 touchbacks in 89 kickoffs last year, and his 41.6 percent touchback percentage ranked 24th among 32 kickers who kicked 50 times or more.
 
That means better field position for the other team, and that means more points.
 
Fipp said Henery simply has to be better, and the two seem to have a plan to try and make that happen.
 
“Some of it is a strength thing,” Fipp said. “There’s a million things he can work on, but probably the biggest for us is the way he strikes the ball. We’re trying to drive it a little more than hit it high. Obviously a little less hang time and a little further.
 
“If you look at the guys who are hitting with the best touchback percentage, they don’t necessarily have a stronger leg but they’re striking the ball a little bit different, so their trajectories are a little bit different, so we’re trying to bring him back down to that.”
 
Then there’s the placekicking.
 
Henery in his three NFL seasons has made 74 of 86 field goal attempts, and his 86.0 percent career accuracy is tied for sixth-best in NFL history among kickers who’ve attempted at least 50 field goals.
 
But when you look inside the numbers, you see some concerns. He’s missed five field goals of 39 yards or shorter in his career, two in a one-point loss in 2011 to the 49ers that cost the Eagles a winning record. He missed a 48-yarder that would have given the Eagles a second-quarter lead in the playoff loss to the Saints. He missed field goals in three straight games early last year.
 
He’s also made just two kicks of 50 yards or more in his career and none over 51 yards.
 
Fipp believes Henery’s field goal numbers overall are very good. And he explained why.
 
“So many people get caught up in that overall number,” he said. “He went from [87 percent] to [82 percent]. But that could be the difference in one kick. It’s not like a passer completion percentage, where they have a million throws. These guys have [approximately] 28 kicks and one or two kicks off is a major shift.
 
“The other thing with Alex, his number dropped off significantly, but how did the number drop? We asked him to kick a 60-yarder right before halftime [against Dallas]. Well, there was a slim chance to make that, so he misses that, but if we didn’t ask him to do that, his number is higher.”
 
Take away that low-percentage 60-yarder, and Henery’s accuracy in 2013 goes from 82.1 percent to a more palatable 85.2 percent. Take away a 61-yarder he missed as a rookie and his career mark goes to 88.1 percent, fourth-highest in NFL history.
 
“Where his struggles are is long-range field goals,” Fipp said. “And I’m not arguing with that, but you’ve got to put everything into perspective.
 
“What’s happening? You can’t just look at the end results and say, ‘His numbers are terrible.’ Really, his numbers in a lot of the ranges are really good and most teams in this league would take those numbers.
 
“Now, the dilemma is that he hasn’t kicked the ball off well enough, but short to mid to mid-long he’s a very accurate field goal kicker. … Now, touchbacks are a different story.
 
“But replacing a guy like that is not easy because who’s out there as a field goal kicker? If he’s out there, somebody’s taken him. So you’re trying to find a guy who’s hard to find. But the bottom line is Alex has got to get better. I’ve got to do a better job, he’s got to do a better job, but there are some things he’s really good at.”
 
Henery, a fourth-round pick in 2011, does have competition this year for the first time as a pro. The Eagles signed undrafted rookie free agent Carey Spear out of Vanderbilt, but he’s a longshot to beat out Henery.
 
Especially after Fipp spoke at length about how tough it would be to replace Henery.
 
“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.”

Looking for Eagles tickets? Buy them through the Wanamaker Entertainment Group.