The Eagles played the Patriots in Foxboro for their second preseason game last night and more or less looked like the Eagles while doing it.
Nick Foles was accurate, Brent Celek made a tough catch, Zach Ertz was a stud, LeSean McCoy was explosive, Darren Sproles was fast, Billy Davis’ defense bent and forced a huge turnover before it broke on the next drive, and Alex Henery missed a kick that he needs to make.
While i have watched a few minutes of a replay this morning and will probably check out the full thing later, there will not be a live blog style post this time. A combination of yellow flags, vanilla schemes, and green backups made three plus hours difficult to evaluate play-by-play.
I enjoyed the hell out of that last week, but I’m not sure how well it served readers, so I want to hone in on the final 10 words of the second paragraph.
Alex Henery missed a kick that he needs to make.
Friday morning, I published a post stating five things I wanted to see last night before the birds came home. Second on the list was for Henery getting to attempt a field goal, as the Eagles were never in position to do so against Chicago.
The shaky fourth-year kicker ended last season on a sour note with a missed 48-yard field goal on the second play of the second quarter in the playoff loss to New Orleans. The Eagles would go on to lose the game by two points.
The stadium was different, the weather was warmer, and the stakes were lower, but Henery lined up for a 47-yard kick in the second quarter, and the result was not pretty.
A Vine is available here if there is trouble with the video embedding. I realize that’s not the highest quality Vine, but if you follow the ball, you see that it comes down about five yards wide right.
This would be his only attempt on the night, so after two preseason games Henery is 0-for-1.
This concerns me.
I tend to view preseason games and how they might apply going forward with a ‘history has a way of repeating itself’ thought process. It is the exact reason I wasn’t concerned with Foles’ two interceptions versus the Bears. One below average quarter of relatively meaningless football doesn’t overrule a historic season, but the problem here with Henery is that we have seen this movie before.
The old adage is that placekickers, like quarterbacks, get all of the criticism when they mess up and all of the glory when they come up clutch, except examples of the latter here are in short supply.
In three years in the league, Henery has only three field goals that gave the Eagles a lead they previously did not have in the fourth quarter of a game, one of them being a chip shot from 26 yards against the Giants in 2012.
This can be chalked up to a lack of opportunity, but Henery’s 2013 season doesn’t inspire a ton of confidence that he could nail a kick at the end of a game that turns a loss into a win.
The biggest kick I can think of that he has hit is a 47-yarder in the first quarter of the division clinching game at Dallas last season. It gave the Eagles a 3-0 lead, one they would never completely relinquish in a 24-22 win to take the NFC East.
This is a screenshot from Pro Football Reference of Henery’s three year NFL career
The overall numbers still look good, but after going 15-for-16 in 2011 and 2012 combined from kicks between 40-49 yards out, Henery was only 7-for-10 their last season.
Now, this is a screenshot of Henery’s Nebraska career courtesy of ESPN.
Only one miss between 40-49 over the course of four seasons. For Henery to become the kicker the Eagles thought he was when they spent a fourth round draft pick on him back in 2011, he needs to get back to being nearly automatic from that range. Being shaky from 50+ can be forgiven if one is just about automatic from closer than that, but Henery was far from it last season.
In total, he left 18 points off the board in 2013, and the Eagles were still the fourth highest scoring offense in the league. That may not seem like a lot, but the misses directly contributed to a loss against the Chargers in Week 2, didn’t help a few days later against the Chiefs, and of course the playoff loss to the Saints.
The Eagles are a good enough offense that Henery can miss a few field goals and the numbers will still look shiny, but they are not yet a good enough team for misses not to cost them if that makes sense.
The basic formula to them winning games in my mind is to score at least 24 points (normally doable — 13 times last season) and for the defense to hold teams to 21 or fewer points (doable but slightly less so — 10 times last season), but sometimes — like for example against Drew Brees and Sean Payton — you need all the points you can get to win the game and can’t leave any off the board.
Before that miss against the Saints, Henery had been perfect for six consecutive games. There is plenty of evidence to suggest he can be a reliable kicker, but something has seemed slightly off since Week 2 of last season.
I find it a bit surprising that the Eagles decided to bring in rookie Carey Spear as fake competition rather than inviting some veteran to push Henery in camp.
This is what Chip Kelly had to say about Henery’s miss last night, courtesy of the excellent Birds 24/7 and Tim McManus.
“Yeah, I’m confident in Alex,” he replied. “But again, we’ve got to convert in games, too. I’ve been real excited with him in practice and I think he’s worked on some things with Coach[Dave] Fipp in terms of placing the ball on kickoffs better and hitting things as we’ve gone through training camp, but we also have to do it in the game.”
That doesn’t translate to a ‘your job is on the line’ warning, but it also doesn’t read as a ringing endorsement for a guy Kelly inherited, rather than brought here on his own. I fully expect Henery to begin — and hopefully finish — the season as the Eagles kicker, but Howie Roseman may want to study the waiver wire and have a contingency plan ready there.
In some brighter news, it does appear progress has been made on kickoffs:
|Kickoff Number||End zone||Touchback||Starting Field Position||Average Starting Field Position|
* Numbers in the end zone column indicate where the kick was fielded
In a perfect world, the field goal accuracy will improve similar to what the kickoffs have done so far, and when I tweet this post out in a few minutes, someone will retweet it five months from now to troll me when Henery is having a great season.
For an Eagles team capable of making a deep run but having little margin for error to do it, that would be awesome.
Right now though, we can only go off what we know from the past and what we currently see. It didn’t count last night, but Henery had a chance to push some concerns aside.
Instead, he pushed it wide right, and in doing so, brought back a painful memory from less than eight months ago when it counted for a whole lot.