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

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

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.”

Eagles repeating pattern of digging first-quarter hole in defeats

Eagles repeating pattern of digging first-quarter hole in defeats

It’s a pattern that keeps repeating itself. And it’s not a winning pattern.

Week after week, the Eagles are digging themselves a first-quarter hole. And week after week, they’re too far behind to catch up.

They trailed the Lions 14-0 in the first quarter. They trailed the Redskins 14-0 a minute into the second quarter. They fell behind the Cowboys 10-3 early in the second. The Giants jumped up on them 14-0 just six minutes in. And on Sunday, the Bengals led 10-0 before the first quarter was over.

If football games began at the start of the second quarter? This would be a different season. The Eagles would be 7-4-1.

The Eagles has actually outscored their opponents in the second, third and fourth quarters.

But the first quarter has been fatal.

The Eagles have been outscored by 32 points in the first quarter – 65 to 33. That’s their fourth-worst first-quarter scoring margin in the last 25 years, behind only three other nightmarish seasons – 1998 (minus-52), 2005 (minus-51) and 2012 (minus-75).

It’s also fourth-worst of any NFL team this year, ahead of only the Jets (minus-36), Broncos (minus-37) and Dolphins (minus-56).

Some teams – like the Broncos and Dolphins – have enough firepower to fight from behind.

The Eagles don’t.

They’re 4-0 when leading after the first quarter, 1-1 when tied after the first quarter and 0-6 when trailing after the first quarter.

At 0-6, they share the second-worst record in the NFL when trailing after 15 minutes with the Jaguars and 49ers. The Browns are 0-8 when trailing after the first quarter.

Last time the Eagles didn’t win a game all year when trailing after the first quarter was 1998. Before that 1977.

“It’s tough, especially in this league, to dig yourself a hole,” Carson Wentz said. “Whether the defense is struggling or the offense giving them points with turnovers and different things, it’s been a variation of a lot of those things. 

“It’s tough to dig yourself a hole against anybody, especially against good teams. So we’ve got to avoid that and we’ve got to come out swinging a little better early in games.”

The last time the Eagles won after trailing following the first quarter was the Dallas game last year, when they trailed 7-0 and won 33-27 in overtime.

What does it say about a team when it’s allowed twice as many points as it’s scored in the first quarter?

It sure seems like the Eagles several times this year simply haven’t been ready to play.

“The start to games, it's a mindset,” head coach Doug Pederson said. “It's truly a mindset. It's one of those things where as a team you want to come out and you want to kind of make the first punch, so to speak, or swing first. 

“We did it against Green Bay. We went down and scored, we matched touchdown for touchdown there. And we've done it throughout the course of the season. We've got to be a little more consistent offensively, too. That can also help. And then defensively it's just a matter of working to get off the field.

“It kind of sets the tone for the rest of the game if you can do that early in a football game.”

The Eagles have scored just three first-quarter touchdowns all year (only the Broncos have fewer) and haven’t scored more than seven points in any of their 12 first quarters.

They’ve allowed nine first-quarter touchdowns, and only one team has allowed more – the Dolphins with 10.

Wentz has completed 67 percent of his first-quarter passes but with just one TD pass and four interceptions.

Incredibly, the Eagles have only five plays all year of more than 20 yards in the first quarter – just one in the last four games. Only the Saints, Jaguars and Broncos have fewer.

Why are the Eagles so bad early in games?

“There is no other answer than to execute one play at a time,” offensive coordinator Frank Reich said. “There's no magic formula. I think we've had good energy at practice. I like the way we practice. I feel like we are putting together good plans.

“We're showing flashes of being a good football team. We need to be more consistent. We need to make more big plays. It's hard to sustain 14-play drives. We've missed a few plays here and there. We just all – coaches, players together – need to make it work one play at a time.”

The only teams to outscore the Eagles in the second half are the Cowboys (13-10), Seahawks (10-8) and Packers (13-3).

When a team has outscored its opponents by 61 points in the second, third and fourth quarters combined and it’s 5-7, the focus has to be on the first quarter.

That means preparation. That means being mentally and physically ready. 

“Yeah, I do look at all of that, and that's part of my job is the (pregame) schedule and all,” Pederson said. “But these guys are in a great frame of mind on game day. They're loose; they're energetic; they're ready to go. They're focused. 

“You see it in pregame. It's been unfortunate, but it's something we've got to focus in on a little bit more … and try to strike first.”

The Eagles will try to end their three-game losing streak at 1 p.m. Sunday when they face the Redskins at the Linc.

The Redskins, 6-5-1 but with a two-game losing streak, beat the Eagles 27-20 in Landover, Md., in October.

“I think it just comes down to being focus and locking in,” Wentz said. “You’ve seen us. There’ve been games where we’ve come out and we’re rolling right away.

"We just have to find a way to maintain that and be consistent with that. The goal is to come out swinging right away.”

Eagles Injury Update: Jordan Matthews back at practice again

Eagles Injury Update: Jordan Matthews back at practice again

Jordan Matthews, the Eagles' best receiver, was back at practice again on Thursday. 

Matthews was a full participant on Thursday after being limited on Wednesday, which is a very good sign for the Eagles. Last week, he returned on Thursday, but then had to sit out Friday and missed Sunday's game. 

It was the first game Matthews had ever missed in his career. Even with the missed game, Matthews still leads the Eagles in receptions (57), receiving yards (686) and receiving touchdowns (3). 

Fellow receiver Dorial Green-Beckham (abdomen) was on the practice field early but left as the Eagles began to stretch. He did not practice for the second straight day. 

Without Green-Beckham and with Matthews hobbled, the Eagles are light at receiver, with just Nelson Agholor, Bryce Treggs and Paul Turner. Head coach Doug Pederson said the Eagles want to keep Turner involved in the game plan even with the return of Matthews. 

Ryan Mathews (knee) was on the practice field again on Thursday, while Halapoulivaati Vaitai (knee) is still out. It looks like Vaitai will miss his third straight game this weekend.