I'm not exactly going out on a limb here, but I think Alex Henery will be better and stronger as a placekicker/kickoff guy in 2014.
A little bit of natural aging, a concomitant increase in body mass, and a rigorous strength-conditioning program in the offseason should do the trick.
A lot of Eagles fans are calling for Henery to be cut….I say "No"… he is a special talent. He reminds me a lot of the Ravens' Justin Tucker. Both are slim of build but gifted with powerful and accurate kicking mechanics. Sometimes you just have to be patient with a talented kicker.
Nick Fierro of the Allentown Morning Call has been brutal on Henery in his demand for competition against the Nebraska phenom.
"If there was one fatal flaw in the execution of special teams — and it might not have even been Kelly's fault — it's that no kicker was ever brought in to compete with Alex Henery. Henery, in fact, has never had to compete for an NFL job since the Eagles drafted him in the fourth round following two egregious misses by David Akers in a five-point playoff loss to eventual Super Bowl champion Green Bay in January 2011."—- Nick Fierro, Jan. 23, 2014…
To be fair to Fierro, Bobby April, Henery's first special teams coordinator with the Eagles, expressed immediate concern when he realized that Henery would be the team's only kicker throughout minicamps and training camp that first year.
"We have to be careful with him," April said at the time. "Alex is going to kick more this year than he ever did in college."
Henery wound up doing the same for three straight seasons, to the point where perhaps no amount of sports science could help.
By the end of this past season, Henery couldn't even reach the end zone on most of his kickoffs, and his field-goal accuracy has declined each season instead of improving. This season, he was just 8-for-12 from beyond 40 yards, 8-for-13 when you include the Eagles' two-point playoff loss to the New Orleans Saints.
At an age and experience level in which he should be getting stronger and more accurate, he's grown weaker and less reliable than ever, as if he's been worn down from overuse.
Henery has repeatedly dismissed all suggestions that having nobody to give him some preseason relief has had as much of a detrimental effect as having nobody to push him for his job.
Kelly and general manager Howie Roseman felt the same way — until they were pushed out of the playoffs following a missed field goal and a short kickoff that set up the Saints' game-winning drive.
"I think it's important to have competition at all positions," Roseman said, specifically when asked about Henery.
Right after that loss, Kelly was asked about the team's confidence level in Henery.
"We'll address that moving forward," he said. "We're not playing a game tomorrow."
And so, as Nick Fierro said, if there's one other certainty beyond death and taxes, it's that the Eagles finally will open up their kicking job in 2014.
Personally I hope they don't waste too much time or money in doing so…
Henery is about to blossom.
He's been going through those awkward teenage blues the past two seasons… the guy is a Late Bloomer… it happens.
A lot of good-to-great kickers go through an awkward phase in their 2nd and 3rd years. Look at Steven Hauschka, who was cut by the Ravens a couple of years ago after a terrific rookie season followed by a rusty sophomore year. Now he's lighting it up for the Seattle Seahags…
Henery will train hard and bulk up in the offseason. His late-blooming physiology is about to catch up with his talent.
See, the thing most NFL fans don't get about kickers is their performance (not only in field goals but also long-distance kickoffs out of the end zone) is not so much about strength but about rhythm. Physical strength helps, and the more the better…. but the money shot is based in the rhythm of the leg swing. It's a lot like golf in that sense.
It's about balance, timing, concentration and acceleration. Just ask Blasphemizer, frequent contributor to this column, and a former honors-winning placekicker himself in high school.
Force = mass 'x' acceleration.
Henery's main deal is to increase leg acceleration into the ball without tearing himself up physically. That's where the maturing of his adult body and his increased dedication to conditioning will pay off.
The great news is Alex Henery already has the head for kicking. He's been a phenom for pressure makes since his teenage years at Nebraska. This guy is the kind of kicker who wants the game to come down to his last-second attempt. You can't teach or coach up that kind of guts.
Kickers around the league with expiring contracts include Carolina's Graham Gano (6-for-6 from 50-plus yards in 2013), Seattle's Steven Hauschka (33-for-35 in FGs in 2013) and ageless wonders Phil Dawson of San Francisco and Adam Vinatieri of Indianapolis.
But I say stick with Henery. Don't stray for greener grass. This guy is the real deal. He's ready to blossom. As a late bloomer myself, I can relate.