The Eagles' kicker competition was never supposed to be easy.
It just wasn’t supposed to be this difficult either.
Four weeks after training camp began with supposed Vanderbilt rookie sensation Carey Spear set to challenge Alex Henery, the Eagles still have a major question mark at the position. The difference is, the pieces have changed.
The Spear experiment was laid to rest early Saturday. The 22-year-old was cut after struggling so much in practice that he was never given a chance to attempt a kick during the team’s first three preseason games (see story).
Now in his place is fellow rookie Cody Parkey, the former Auburn kicker who was acquired from the Indianapolis Colts earlier this week.
With only one preseason game remaining, the Eagles need answers now. Coming off a season in which he made 82 percent of his kicks, Henery has continued to struggle this preseason, missing two of the three kicks he has attempted, including a 31-yarder Thursday against the Steelers.
Asked about how the Eagles can possibly evaluate Parkey against Henery when they’ll only have one game to look at the former, Chip Kelly stated the truth. They have no choice.
“You gotta do it,” Kelly said. “We have kicking periods during the week and then we’ve got a game to play. … You’ll see what opportunities give us the chance to see how it is.
“There’s nothing else we can do. We can’t get another scrimmage and we can’t get another game. We’ve got to make decisions based upon the amount of time we have Cody in here with Alex and then go from there.”
In Parkey, the Eagles at least have a player who has made a kick in an NFL preseason game, something Spear never did. Parkey went 2 for 2 on field-goal attempts, including a 45-yarder in the Colts' preseason loss to the Giants last week.
The inexperienced Parkey has seen his situation completely change in the span of a few days. Instead of challenging an aging legend in Adam Vinatieri with the Colts, he now finds himself on a team desperate for stability at his position.
“My main focus was winning the job in Indianapolis,” Parkey said. “I really wasn’t concerned about other teams to be honest.
“It’s different because usually you can get a nice little rhythm in OTAs with the same team but it’s fine. I’m going to make the best of my opportunity.”
The move to add Parkey has been the latest in what has been a pressure-filled offseason for Henery.
A year ago, the former fourth-round draft pick was the only kicker in camp and considered to be a long-term option for the team after making 88 percent of his kicks during his first two seasons.
Now, he is trying to bounce back from a season in which he hit just 67 percent on kicks longer than 40 yards and missed a crucial 48-yard try during the Eagles’ two-point loss to the Saints in the playoffs.
Predictably, Henery claimed that having more kickers in camp doesn’t affect him, and that his focus is solely on his own performance.
“I just come here to kick myself,” Henery said. “It’s one of those things you don’t worry about. There’s always someone trying to steal your job.”
To his credit, Henery hasn’t placed any of the blame for his misses this preseason on long snapper Jon Dorenbos or holder Donnie Jones, putting everything on himself.
He has also looked good during the team’s practices. While that may seem impressive after watching someone like Spear miss those same attempts, Henery knows that it ultimately doesn’t matter.
He needs to produce during the games. More specifically, he needs to take advantage of any opportunities he gets Thursday against the Jets. If he doesn’t, and Parkey shows more promise, it could be the end of Henery’s time in Philadelphia.
“Another kicker or not, you just try to go out there and hit good balls,” Henery said. “I’ve been hitting really good balls, it’s just those few bad one have come at not good times.
“[Games are] pretty much the same thing [as practice]. You just make sure you’re focused on all the little things. … It’s a big mental game but really it’s the same kick every time.”