Saturday, November 28, 2015

Pre-game: Henry, Henery and special teams

As we count down to Sunday night's Eagles-Falcons matchup, I wanted to take a look at one area I haven't written about much this week: special teams.

Pre-game: Henry, Henery and special teams

Eagles special teams provided mixed results in Week 1. (Ed Hille/Staff Photographer)
Eagles special teams provided mixed results in Week 1. (Ed Hille/Staff Photographer)

As we count down to Sunday night's Eagles-Falcons matchup, I wanted to take a look at one area I haven't written about much this week: special teams.

And the conversation of course begins with the Birds' rookie kicker Alex Henery and rookie punter Chas Henry.

Henery was successful on his only field-goal attempt (from 34 yards out) and hit all four extra points, but what about kickoffs?

Only one of Henery's five kickoff attempts, not counting a squic kick in the second quarter, resulted in a touchback (20 percent). That was well below the league-average. In Week 1, 79 of 162 kickoffs went for touchbacks (48.8 percent). Only six teams had a worse percentage than the Birds.

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So what happened when the Rams returned the kicks? Well, let's start with who was on the field. Here's the Eagles' kickoff coverage team: Brandon Hughes, Colt Anderson, Brian Rolle, Riley Cooper, Keenan Clayton, Moise Fokou, Akeem Jordan, Nate Allen, Owen Schmitt, Joselio Hanson.

After Jordan got injured, Clay Harbor replaced him.

Taking away the touchback and the squib kick, there were four returns that resulted in starting field position for the Rams at the 18, 24, 14 and 20. In other words, only one of the four returns got past the 20, and the average starting field position on the non-touchbacks was the 19.

Hughes, Hanson and Clayton all made tackles on kickoff returns. And the Rams were called for a penalty on the fourth one, which negated a big return.

The punting game was not nearly as impressive. Chas Henry had three attempts and averaged just 36.3 yards. That ranked second-to-last in Week 1.

Here's the punt coverage team: Allen, Schmitt, Harbor, Jon Dorenbos, Fokou, Clayton, Kurt Coleman, Jason Avant, Hughes and Anderson. Hughes and Anderson were the gunners.

The Eagles lined up at their own 15 on the first punt, which traveled 39 yards. Anderson was the first man down, and Rams return man Danny Amendola muffed it. Hughes was credited with the tackle after Amendola recovered.

The Eagles lined up at their own 36 on the second punt, which traveled 37 yards. It bounced well short of where Amendola was standing and was not returned. Anderson was the first man down.

And finally, the Eagles were at their own 38 on the third punt, which went 33 yards. The officials initially threw a flag on Anderson for running into Amendola, but he successfully argued that he was blocked into the Rams' return man. St. Louis took over at its own 29.

Overall, not a good performance by Henry, and the punt coverage team didn't get tested on returns.

Meanwhile, the kickoff return team picked up right where it left off in 2010. And that's to say it was not good. Rookie Dion Lewis brought out the first kick to the 12 yard line. The second kick was a touchback. He brought the third return out to the 13. And the fourth was a touchback. On four kickoff returns, the Eagles' average starting field position was about the 16 yard line. I still like Lewis and think kickoff returns are a good way to get the ball in his hands, but he did not impress in Week 1.

And finally, DeSean Jackson was back to field punts, but did not have a return. There were two touchbacks, one punt that was downed and a fair catch.

Eagles coaches gave Anderson the most special-teams points in Week 1 (27). Avant was second with 20; then Clayton with 18; Schmitt with 15; Fokou with 14; Jordan with 12; and Cooper with 11.

With Jordan doubtful, the Eagles will almost definitely have a roster spot open. Jaiquawn Jarrett could get the call as another special-teams body.

As for the Falcons, punter Matt Bosher averaged 35.6 yards on five attempts in Week 1. That ranked 29th in the NFL, but two of the five punts were downed inside the 20. Bosher also handled kickoffs. One of four went for a touchback, but the Bears started at the 8, 9 and 23 on the other three. There were Chicago penalties on two of those kickoffs.

And finally, return man Eric Weems didn't do much against Chicago. The Falcons started at the 15 and the 6 (penalty) on his two kickoff returns. And Weems gained 8 yards or fewer on four punt returns.

If you're looking for more on the matchup, check out my 15 things from earlier this week. And be sure to join me tonight for our game chat.

You can follow me on Twitter or become a fan of Moving the Chains on Facebook.
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About this blog
Sheil Kapadia is in his fifth season writing about the Eagles and the NFL for His earliest memories as a sports fan include several trips to Veterans Stadium with his Dad. He's not a beat writer or an Insider, but is here to discuss the NFL 365 days a year. E-mail him at or by clicking here

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