Just Kickin’ It

Posted: May 19th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | Tags: , | 31 Comments »

The Eagles drafted Nebraska kicker Alex Henery in the 4th round.  That statement is kinda weird on its own, but it really doesn’t hit you until you contemplate life without David Akers.

Think about it.  Some young fans only know Akers as the Eagles kicker.  He has given the team great stability and consistency.  How many guys kicked for us in the 90s?

Roger Ruzek

Matt Bahr

Eddie Murray (Cal Ripken was busy)

Gary Anderson

Chris Boniol

Norm Johnson

Akers took over in 2000 and life has been good ever since.

We can question taking Alex Henery in the 4th round.  We can question whether he’s the right guy to replace Akers.  We do have to face the fact that Akers wasn’t going to last forever.  We’re spoiled.  For every Jason Hanson or Jon Kasay that stays put for 15 years there are 10 guys that last a year or two.

I don’t pretend to be an expert on the mechanics of kicking.  All of my knowledge comes from an old friend called Super Toe.  I do know that Henery has a good leg.  He’s clutch.  He’s accurate.  I also love his personality.  Henery was so highly thought of by his teammates that they voted him a team captain.  He’s not a typical kicker.  ESPN analyst Kirk Herbstreit spent time around Henery and his teammates and always came away raving about him as a player.  Herbstreit at some point referred to Henery as the “greatest kicker in the history of college football”.   That should give you an idea that he’s not just the latest All-American kicker.  He’s special.

Check out these numbers from a Nebraska blog:

  • He made 89.2 percent of his field goals (66-of-74. The NCAA record was 87.8 percent b Florida’s Bobby Raymond.
  • He made 77.4 percent of his career field goals from 40 yards or longer (24-of-31). The NCAA record was72.1 percent by Georgia’s Billy Bennet.
  • He has made 97.7 percent of field goals inside of 40 yards (42-of-43). The NCAA career record was 97 percent.
  • Henery was tied for the NCAA record with six career games with at least four field goals.
  • Henery combined to make 256 of 265 career kicks if you count PATs and field goals, a 96.6 percent accuracy record. The Division I record is 94.9 percent by Missouri’s Jeff Wolfert.
  • The Omaha Burke grad holds the scoring record at Nebraska with 397 points.

Bobby April raved about Henery in a recent interview.  He was especially fond of Henery’s confidence and attitude.   And those are the biggest issues with guys making the move from college to the NFL.  The game is faster at the pro level, but kicking should just be kicking.  I think the increased speed of the game and the pressure of life in the NFL is what ruins most college guys.  As April points out in the story, it isn’t as if kickers have to adjust to a new scheme.

There are no guarantees when it comes to kickers and the NFL.  Plenty of guys with great backgrounds have flamed out.  Some internet hack pointed out recently that we should beware of rookie kickers.  I feel confident that Henery will pan out, but there will be some growing pains (do I owe Alan Thicke for using that phrase?).  The numbers that Brian runs through in his post certainly aren’t comforting.

If Henery doesn’t pan out this summer we’ll have to turn to some veteran off the street.  Life will get really interesting.  Does anyone know the number for Mark Simoneau or Luis Zendejas?

31 Comments on “Just Kickin’ It”

  1. 1 Dan in Philly said at 12:35 PM on May 19th, 2011:

    Just checked out Akers stats for 2010, and in no way can I see him being anything less than above average, even very good. Perfect in PATs, good in Field Goal %, had long field goals made 9 at 50+ yards), and the special teams were above average in return yardage, implying that his kickoffs had altitude; the leg was clearly still healthy. Even if we drafted what proves to be the best kicker in the history of the NFL, he’s not going to make a huge difference in what Akers gave us last year.

    The only thing that makes sense is they either think Akers is getting too old to continue much longer, or they don’t want to pay him what he’ll command. Maybe both.

  2. 2 Dan in Philly said at 12:36 PM on May 19th, 2011:

    Just noticed my typo, he made 1 of 50+, not 9 🙂

  3. 3 Tommy Lawlor said at 12:47 PM on May 19th, 2011:

    Akers is still a very good kicker. The point in going after Henery is that he offers you a potential long term solution to PK. Akers is most likely a 2 or 3 year guy. Heck, maybe he declines before that. PKs are strange. Some last forever. Others hit the wall at some point and seem to fade quickly.

  4. 4 Anders said at 12:52 PM on May 19th, 2011:

    Also some seems to be able to last beyond 10-15 years but suddenly falls apart.

    I still cant belive that Morten Andersen kicked 24 seasons in the NL

  5. 5 Eric said at 12:54 PM on May 19th, 2011:

    What’s troublesome is all the names of records he broke is a who’s-who of kickers that never made it in the NFL.

  6. 6 Tommy Lawlor said at 1:05 PM on May 19th, 2011:

    @ Eric…

    Interesting point. I would say one difference is that he’s one guy breaking the records of multiple players and that’s what makes him a special kicker. Were those guys as well-rounded as Henery? Did they have NFL legs? Kicking a 57-yard FG late in a game to win it is impressive on several different levels. You don’t hear about guys doing something like that very often.

  7. 7 Anders said at 1:15 PM on May 19th, 2011:

    kicking a 57-yard game winner in an outdoor stadium is what make me believe he have the mental side down.

  8. 8 McG said at 1:30 PM on May 19th, 2011:

    Like all things football this is a calculated risk. Akers is a great kicker, and I’m sure that whatever team picks him up will have a high quality kicker for approx 3 years. He certainly seems to have a lot going on in life outside football. Akers needs one more big paycheck and then he is probably going to pack it in and become a family man. It’s very difficult keeping major events in life from effecting performance at work. I commend Akers for the work that he’s done and I wish him and his family the best. I hope that he has a great plan for investing and protecting this new contract that he is bound to get. Here’s to hoping that the Eagles accurately predicted this one and we now have an above average kicker for the next 10-15 years.

  9. 9 MikeD said at 1:48 PM on May 19th, 2011:

    Forgive me for my ignorance but is there any way they cut Rocca, keep Akers and the rookie and let the rookie be the punter/holder/Aker’s Kolb?

  10. 10 Eric said at 1:55 PM on May 19th, 2011:

    It’s definitely a big risk/reward deal.

    You really never truly know what you’re getting, but that’s true of any player.

    Whenever I think of whether a kicker will have success or not; I think of two Penn St. kickers that had very different college and pro careers.

    Brett Conway was one of the greatest kickers in Penn St. history and looked destined to be an all-time NFL great. He was nothing more than average after being drafted in the 3rd round.

    Whereas Robbie Gould was just an average kicker at Penn St. and has become probably the best kicker in Bears history. I remember reading an article where someone asked Robbie why he’s so much better now than at Penn St. and he said something like they actually coach me here.

    So, I guess my point in all that long-windedness is that a great college career doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll be a great kicker, but being a great kicker and having great coaching (Bobby April) will help a lot in whether he’s good or bad.

  11. 11 Tommy Lawlor said at 1:57 PM on May 19th, 2011:

    @ MikeD…

    Not likely. I don’t think Henery was a great punter in college. He did punt, but I’ve not heard him talked about as a legit punting prospect.

    I’m expecting Rocca back. I don’t have any inside info on that. Just a guess.

  12. 12 bula said at 2:08 PM on May 19th, 2011:

    we had no choice but to select a kicker. The lockout kind of screwed us again on this one. If free agency had taken place before the draft, we would have known whether akers would be back or not. Since we don’t know whether he’ll be back, we were forced to pick him. If we had thrown all of our eggs in the akers basket and were unable to sign him, it would be the middle of summer and we’d have no plan in place for a kicker. Also if akers had signed the transition tag, we’d have a little more assurance that we’d be able to retain him and we wouldnlt have made the pik

  13. 13 McG said at 2:34 PM on May 19th, 2011:

    @ bula, right on. It’s pretty clear that Akers doesn’t intend to be an Eagle when he opts to not sign the transition tag. He needs MO MONEY. I don’t fault him for that because sadly it sounds like he has some crazy medical bills to pay for his daughter.

  14. 14 Adam S. said at 2:37 PM on May 19th, 2011:

    A friend of mine is a die hard Nebraska fan (Also the same Bucs fan). During our marathon Madden matches we talked about one anothers drafts and he raved about Hennery, saying he thinks we hit gold with him and that he wouldn’t have been surprised to have seen somebody take him in the 2nd or 3rd he’s that good. He also mentioned that the 57 yd game winner he kicked wasn’t in ideal conditions either.

    I hope he was right because we have indeed been spoiled for the past decade. I wish Akers the best wherever he goes and I hope he gts a huge (for K’s) contract handed his way, he deserves it.

  15. 15 Tony said at 2:51 PM on May 19th, 2011:

    Akers is also a free agent and will expect a decent length contract with very good money for a kicker. In addition to planning for the future, a rookie 4th round contract saves the team some money that they can potentially spend elsewhere.

  16. 16 Eric said at 3:29 PM on May 19th, 2011:

    It’s not medical bills that are Akers’ problem. He invested a large portion of his money in deals that went south.

    I like the guy and feel sorry for his situation with his daughter, but with investing there’s also the risk.

  17. 17 Shane said at 4:42 PM on May 19th, 2011:

    For those of you questioning his punting ability, go checking out his highlight videos and see how many punts he puts out of bounds within the 5 yard line. its ridiculous. its like there is a magnet on the sideline that just pulls it out. one punt i saw was around the nebraska 30 yard line and he put in out on the 2, and by looking at the whole video, you can tell it is not a fluke.

    i’m actually excited about this.

    we drafted the best kicker in college football, i feel like he is more likely to be spectacular than all of the other kickers that were drafted. escpecially with bobby april.

  18. 18 bsencore said at 4:49 PM on May 19th, 2011:

    “Some internet hack”


  19. 19 Tommy Lawlor said at 5:05 PM on May 19th, 2011:

    @ Shane…

    You bring up an interesting point. Henery did show good ball control with his punts. You wonder if he could be the designated pooch punter. I still don’t think he’s going to get a shot to be the full-time punter. His primary spot will be PK.

  20. 20 mcud said at 6:06 PM on May 19th, 2011:

    It would be pretty sweet to have the extra roster spot.

  21. 21 Cliff said at 7:38 PM on May 19th, 2011:

    1) I wish Growing Pains would start running on Nick at Nite or something. C’mon!

    2) I can’t believe all the flack the Eagle are getting for taking a kicker in the 4th round. We’re talking about serious points coming from one player. Kickers are important.

    Akers was responsible for 6 points per game last season (not counting PAT’s). He attempted 38 FG, so theoretically he could have accounted for 7 or more points per game.

    Kickers can also generate points when the offense isn’t doing very well. It’s a big moral boost if an offense marches down field, get’s stalled and can still come away with 3 points.

  22. 22 Floyd said at 10:32 PM on May 19th, 2011:

    I remember in Maddens book “One knee equals two feet” he explicitly states that he would never consider having a guy do both placekicking and punting.

    He mentions how placekicking contracts the muscle and punting stretches it out. He believed that the constant opposite stresses were disaster for a guy who wanted to have any kind of longevity in the league.

    I would rather he stick strictly to placekicking and have a hard time believing that we will ever see this guy punt a football in a real game. Guess we shall see.

  23. 23 mattman said at 12:40 AM on May 20th, 2011:

    Re: Cliff – I couldn’t agree more. Why is a 4th round pick so precious that it can’t be used on a top kicking prospect?

    As for Akers, he’s definitely lost some of the long range in recent years. He’s still deadly from inside the 40, but he used to be deadly from inside 47. Plus, he’s starting to miss some of the short ones. It’s possible Akers still has a long career ahead, but if it happens it’s going to be as an accurate guy without a lot of range.

    Wow, it’s going to be *really* strange to see Akers in a different uniform. Every bit as jarring as McNabb.

  24. 24 eaglizeit said at 2:38 AM on May 20th, 2011:

    Hi Tommy, I was wondering if you think DT Amobi Okoye would be a good fit in Washburn’s system. I liked him a lot coming out of college 3 yrs ago, I think graduated and was drafted in the top 10 when he was only 20. Houston doesn’t really plan on using him much this yr with their changing to a 3-4 defense, he’s like a rookie(only 23) maybe some good coaching and change of scenery he could be a Pro Bowler for 10 yrs. If we traded Kolb to Arizona they could give Houston an ok 3-4 lineman & have them send Okoye to us as part of the trade. Maybe Card’s send us a CB, 1st and 4th rd pick too. What do you think of Okoye? Thanks. You can email me if you’d prefer.

  25. 25 eaglizeit said at 3:08 AM on May 20th, 2011:

    I don’t think that’s too much to ask for Kolb (a QB who’s offensive player of the week, or the best offensive player in the NFL 1/3 of the games he’s played through) compared to a prospect at WR who’s worth 2 first, a second and 2 third rd picks. Julius Jones will only touch the ball at the most 5 to 10 times a game, QB’s the most important position and what are the chances Jones will be the best offensive player of any week.

  26. 26 Pitmanite said at 10:33 AM on May 20th, 2011:

    Just saw Carlos Rogers talking about looking to go elsewhere. I have to be honest I know more about his name than I do his play. I’m curious, Tommy, or anyone else who has a strong knowledge of Rogers, what your interest level is in the Eagles acquiring Rogers. Assuming they don’t get in the bidding war for As#%*^&$ from the Raiders, think they’ll be interested in Rogers? Should us fans be excited about that?

  27. 27 Dhani Jones said at 11:16 AM on May 20th, 2011:

    Akers missed two FGs against GB, and missed a FG and an extra point against Arizona in the NFCCG. What’s the point of keeping a veteran kicker is he can’t come through in the playoffs?

  28. 28 McG said at 11:21 AM on May 20th, 2011:

    I am with you Pitmanite… I would love to see who Tommy thinks is the best fit for the Eagles from the 2nd tier of CBs who may be available in free agency (possible article material Tommy?).

    Of course, I’m still pulling for DRC from AZ along with a 2012 2nd or 3rd rd pick.

  29. 29 Stephen said at 12:26 PM on May 20th, 2011:

    I’m keeping the dream alive… Kolb for Patrick Peterson strait up.

  30. 30 Greg Lloyd said at 12:33 PM on May 20th, 2011:

    It will be for Marcus Trufant and a 2nd.

  31. 31 D3Keith said at 9:27 PM on May 21st, 2011:

    The upside with Henery is such that, as with any other prospect, having all the talent is no guarantee but if you have to use a rookie — and we certainly needed to draft a kicker — you might as well get the most talented and most accomplished one out there.

    Add in the fact that we basically manufacture fourth-round picks by virtue of our wheeling and dealing and I think this is a low-risk, high-potential-reward proposition.

    Just imagine if we hit on another 8- or 10-year kicker. We’d all agree having stability at that position is huge. Getting it for a fourth-round pick (even if most kickers cost nothing) is a bargain.

    I’ll miss Akers, but I love that we grabbed the best guy to come out in a handful of seasons as his replacement.