Many observers thought Mat McBriar won the Eagles’ punting battle in training camp, and were surprised when the Birds went with incumbent Chas Henry. Special teams coordinator Bobby April later indicated the decision came down to who was a better holder for Alex Henery.
But holding on kicks, it turns out, is not the most important factor in punting, and on Tuesday, the Eagles announced they had released Henry and brought back McBriar.
The team also signed longsnapper Kyle Nelson to the practice squad, so he can get some work with McBriar and Henery this week. Jon Dorenbos has a high ankle sprain, and it’s possible the Eagles will move Nelson up to the active roster later in the week, if it looks like Dorenbos can’t play against the Giants. (So Henery could have a new snapper and holder for Sunday, a situation most kickers would find less than ideal.)
Henry, in his second season, was wildly inconsistent in the first three games, and though he boomed three 60-yard-plus punts, the longer ones tended to get returned for good yardage. His gross average was 48.3 yards, eighth in the league, but his net was just 38.0, 21st in the NFL. That could reflect poor coverage, but it also could reflect a tendency toward highly returnable, line drive kicks.
McBriar, 33, was a two-time Pro Bowler with the Cowboys who lost his job last season after a cyst started pressing on a nerve in his plant leg. McBriar got the cyst removed in the offseason, but the nerve had to heal itself, a lengthy process he said was not complete when he signed with the Eagles early in training camp.
Though he sometimes wore a brace on the affected leg, McBriar’s preseason averages were 45.5 and 41.3.