Philadelphia Eagles kicker Alex Henery, the 2011 fourth round draft pick (120th overall) out of Nebraska, is consistently a subject of controversy in Philadelphia. He went through last year’s training camp without any opposition, a concept that seemed to go against the grain of Chip Kelly’s overall philosophy of “competition”. It is an idea Kelly constantly preached to his quarterbacks over the summer, and some believe it was a large factor in the elevated play of Nick Foles.
In this space, we will take a closer look at Alex Henery and see what the numbers say about his 3-year career so far in Philadelphia.
Entering the 2011 NFL Draft, Henery was highly regarded coming out of college, where he set the NCAA all-time record for field goal accuracy (89.5%). He was a first team All-American place-kicker in 2010 (AP, Rivals.com, CBSSports.com, SI.com), and NFLDraftScout.com projected him to go in either the fourth or fifth round. Philadelphia nabbed him in the fourth with the 120th overall pick, as longtime Eagle David Akers was on the way out.
At the time, it seemed like a reasonable pick, albeit a little high for a kicker. As a reference (and everything is 20/20 in hindsight), Denver Broncos tight end Julius Thomas (129th pick) and…gulp…Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman (154th) were both still on the board.
As a comparison, I took a look at the top 10 NFL kickers in field goals made* from 2013, as rated by ESPN.com. Seven of the top 10 kickers in the NFL were all undrafted free agents (Justin Tucker, Adam Vinatieri, Nick Novak, Dan Carpenter, Steven Hauschka, Phil Dawson, and Jay Feely). Two more were drafted in the sixth round (Nick Folk, Mason Crosby), and only Stephen Gostkowski was taken as high as the fourth round.
Six of these ten kickers were on teams that went to the playoffs. In the NFC, the top 3 kickers were all on teams that made the playoffs, and 2 of the top 3 (Phil Dawson and Steven Hauschka) will play this Sunday in the NFC Championship game.
*Henery finished tied for 22nd on the list of FGs made (23/28 on the season)
Field Goal Kicking
In 49 games as a Philadelphia Eagle, Alex Henery has made 75 of 88 field goals (including the playoffs). His overall numbers are as follows:
• 26/27 on FGs from 20-29 yards
• 25/29 on FGs from 30-39 yards
• 22/27 on FGs from 40-49 yards
• 2/5 on FGs from 50+ yards
The number that stands out here is the fact that Henery has only attempted five field goals of 50+ yards in three years as an Eagle. In the 2013 regular season, there were 11 kickers that made at least four field goals from 50+ yards, and there were nine more that made three field goals from 50+.
Henery’s low number of longer kicks is slightly baffling, as analysis on NFL.com scouted him as a kicker that “possesses a big, strong leg with the range to hit very long field goal attempts”. Obviously, the Eagles’ coaching staffs over the years haven’t felt quite as confident putting Henery out there for longer kicks.
In the 2013 regular season, Henery ranked 21st in accuracy from 40-49 yards (7/10), and ranked tied for 25th in accuracy from 50+ (1/2). If you look at his career numbers from 50+ yards and compare it to kickers from just this season, he would be tied for dead last in accuracy (2/5).
Is Alex Henery a Clutch Field Goal Kicker?
Amazingly enough, Henery actually set an Eagles franchise record, making 22 straight field goal attempts. Although that is quite an impressive feat, does Henery come up big in crucial moments? Remember that Henery has made 75 total field goals as an Eagle. Let’s take a look at some more numbers:
• 42 of Henery’s 75 field goals have come in the first half.
• 11 of Henery’s field goals have come in the 4th quarter.
• With the Eagles have trailing at some point during a game, Henery has made 4 field goals that have given the Eagles the lead (21, 26, 41, and 45 yards).
• When the Eagles have been tied with a team, Henery has made 11 field goals that would give Philadelphia a lead (20, 22, 28, 32, 33, 35, 36, 36, 43, 47, and 48 yards).
• When the Eagles have trailed in a game, Henery has made 5 field goals to tie the game (22, 23, 25, 32, 42).
When games are close, Henery has connected on 20 field goals to either give the Eagles the lead or tie the game.
13 Missed FGs: A Kick-By-Kick Analysis
Below are the 13 field goals that Alex Henery has missed, along with a brief explanation of each one:
Game: Week 1 @ Atlanta Falcons.
Distance: 63 yards.
Situation: A desperate attempt right before halftime when the Eagles were trailing 14-10.
Game: Week 4 vs. San Francisco 49ers.
Distance: 39 yards
Situation: The Eagles were up 23-17 with 14:02 left in the 4th quarter when Henery could have given them a 2-possession lead.
Game: Week 4 vs. San Francisco 49ers
Distance: 33 yards
Situation: In the same game and exact scenario as above, the Eagles were up 23-17 with 6:33 left in the 4th quarter and a chance to extend their lead, but Henery missed. The Eagles ended up losing the game 24-23.
Game: Week 1 @ Cleveland Browns
Distance: 45 yards
Situation: With 9:04 remaining in the 4th quarter and the Browns up 16-10, Henery failed to bring the Eagles closer. The Eagles ended up winning the game, however, 17-16.
Game: Week 14 @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Distance: 58 yards
Situation: The Eagles were up 10-0, when another “before halftime miracle attempt” missed.
Game: Week 14 @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Distance: 31 yards
Situation: The Eagles were up 10-7 with 7:33 left in the 3rd quarter when Henery failed to extend the lead. Philadelphia ended up winning 23-21.
Game: Week 17 @ New York Giants
Distance: 28 yards
Situation: The Eagles were getting creamed by the Giants 28-7 in the first half when Henery missed the short field goal with 1:55 left.
Game: Week 2 vs. San Diego Chargers
Distance: 46 yards
Situation: There were 9 seconds left in the first half and the Eagles were trailing 13-10. Henery failed to convert, and the Eagles ended up losing 33-30.
Game: Week 3 vs. Kansas City Chiefs
Distance: 48 yards
Situation: With 2:47 left in the third quarter, the Eagles trailed the Andy Reid led Chiefs 16-9 and Henery missed the attempt that would have closed the gap.
Game: Week 4 @ Denver Broncos
Distance: 46 yards
Situation: The Broncos were crushing the Eagles (49-13) when Henery missed with 10:46 left in the 4th quarter.
Game: Week 7 vs. Dallas Cowboys
Distance: 60 yards
Situation: With 14 seconds left in the first half and Philadelphia trailing Dallas 3-0 in a strange game, Henery failed to give the Eagles momentum going into the break.
Game: Week 10 @ Green Bay Packers
Distance: 39 yards
Situation: With 7:40 left in the second quarter, Henery failed to put the Eagles up 10-0 after Brandon Boykin’s 76-yard INT return.
Game: Wild Card Round vs. New Orleans Saints
Distance: 48 yards
Situation: With 14:26 left in the second quarter, the Eagles could have been the first team to put points on the board. Instead, the game stayed at 0-0 and the Eagles ended up losing 26-24.
A few takeaways from Henery’s 13 misses:
• 10 of Henery’s 13 misses all came in close games where the score was within one possession.
• 4 of Henery’s 13 misses came in the 4th quarter (only one was a blowout).
• 6 of the 13 misses came in the second half.
• Henery is 11/15 on field goals in the 4th quarter.
• With the Eagles trailing, Henery has never missed a field goal attempt that would have given the Eagles the lead (4/4).
• When the Eagles have been tied with a team, Henery never missed an attempt to give them the lead (11/11).
• When the Eagles were trailing an opponent, Henery went 5/7 on attempts that would tie the game.
• 4 of Henery’s 13 misses came right before halftime, and 3 of them were desperation attempts (63, 58, and 60).
• Henery has had two games where he’s missed multiple field goals (2 vs. SF in 2011, 2 vs. TB in 2012)
• In those two games, 3 of the 4 field goal misses were attempts shorter than 40 yards.
• 5 of Henery’s misses have been less than 40 yards.
Henery has had his share of timely kicks, but has also failed to capitalize on golden opportunities to give the Eagles a better chance to win games. Any kick with the game on the line can be considered an adventure. It is a good bet that the Eagles’ coaching staff doesn’t feel as confident as they should when he steps onto the field in a big moment.
Alex Henery struggled in the kickoff department all year long, consistently unable to put the ball in the endzone to create touchbacks. Many will remember the strategy of the “pooch” kicks to avoid Cordarrelle Patterson in the Minnesota game, which seemingly gave the Vikings great field position on every drive. The truly troubling aspect of that strategy is the inability to trust your kicker to put the ball out of the end zone in a dome in perfect conditions.
In the 2013 regular season, Henery had 37 touchbacks, which ranked 20th in the NFL. The Eagles also gave up the 4th most kick return yards of any team in the NFL (certainly Henery is not fully to blame for that stat, but generating touchbacks helps to eliminate kick return yards).
The top 7 kickers ranked in order of most touchbacks all had at least 50 on the season, and Broncos K Matt Prater led the league with 81. Many analysts may point to the thinner air in Denver as the reason for the absurd number of touchbacks the Broncos produced (Stephen Gostkowski finished 2nd with 65). Ironically, when Henery kicked at Mile High, he was unable to boot the ball out of the endzone, and the Eagles gave up a kickoff return for a touchdown Week 4 at Denver.
Henery will most definitely enter the final year of his contract with competition at the kicking spot. Although he has not been terrible, he certainly hasn’t lived up to the 4th round billing, especially for a kicker. In the NFL where field position is so crucial, the Eagles kicking game must upgrade drastically if they expect to become elite contenders in the NFC. Whether that upgrade stems from the improvement of Henery, or the emergence of another kicker remains to be seen.