Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Putting Alex Henery under the microscope

Alex Henery has become a controversial player this season for the Eagles, and last Sunday's loss in Minnesota only added fuel to the fire. On the one hand, Henery was 3 for 3 on FG attempts, but because the Eagles didn't trust that he could consistently kick the ball through the end zone on kickoffs, they employed a failed squib kick strategy, which allowed the Vikings to have great field position to begin their drives. That was to avoid the best kick returner in the NFL, Cordarrelle Patterson. It won't get much easier this Sunday when the Eagles face Devin Hester of the Bears.

Putting Alex Henery under the microscope

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Alex Henery has become a controversial player this season for the Eagles, and last Sunday's loss in Minnesota only added fuel to the fire. On the one hand, Henery was 3 for 3 on FG attempts, but because the Eagles didn't trust that he could consistently kick the ball through the end zone on kickoffs, they employed a failed squib kick strategy, which allowed the Vikings to have great field position to begin their drives. That was to avoid the best kick returner in the NFL, Cordarrelle Patterson. It won't get much easier this Sunday when the Eagles face Devin Hester of the Bears.

There are facts that say Henery has been a good kicker through 3 seasons with the Eagles. However, there are other facts that say he has not. Since he has become a topic of interest, let's put Henery's numbers under the microscope:

Henery's career numbers say he is accurate:

• In his rookie season, Henery made 88.9% of his FG attempts. That was the best percentage in franchise history, and the 3rd best season for a rookie in NFL history.

• In 2012, Henery set a franchise record for making 22 straight FG attempts.

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• Currently, Henery is the 8th most accurate kicker in NFL history, at 85.7%.

Anyone who supports Henery will point to those facts.

However...

• Among kickers who have played 3 full seasons (or close enough) since 2011, Henery is tied with Shaun Suisham for the fewest FG attempts from 50+ yards.

In fact, those 5 attempts are far below the league average (13.4) from the list of kickers above. That shows that Henery's coaches are uncomfortable letting him try FGs from long distance. It also explains why Henery has been an accurate kicker so far in his career. The bulk of his kicks have been from close distance.

• Of those 5 attempts from beyond 50, Henery connected on 2 of them.

• Among the same sample size of kickers above, Henery has the shortest "long" FG in the NFL since 2011:

• Among kickers with at least 35 kickoffs, Henery ranks 24th in touchback %, with 43.4% of his kickoffs resulting in a touchback. He was 24th (37.1%) in 2012, and 23rd (37.6%) in 2011. Obviously, Henery's leg strength is below average.

• Among kickers with at least 5 attempts from intermediate range (40-49 yards), Henery is the 2nd least accurate kicker in the NFL this season. Only the Titans' Rob Bironas has a worse percentage from the 40's. If you're a kicker who is untrustworthy from 50+ yards out with a long of 51 in your career, you should at least be dead on accurate from within 50. Henery has not been that "steady in-close" guy this season.

Kickers have become outstanding in the NFL. They are far better than they were a decade or two ago. Of the 14 most accurate kickers in NFL history, 13 are still active. Therefore, whenever you hear "(Player X) is the Xth most accurate kicker in NFL history," it doesn't really mean all that much.

Alex Henery kicked unopposed in training camp this year. Obviously, Henery's production has not warranted the 4th round draft pick the Eagles spent on him in 2011. But does he warrant replacing altogether? At a minimum, there's almost no way he won't have competition in 2014.

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