DAVE FIPP WAS candid about kicker Alex Henery yesterday, when the Eagles' special-teams coordinator spoke with reporters at NovaCare.
"We're keeping an eye on everybody" around the league, Fipp said, after discussing how Henery has improved in practice, while noting that the bottom line is how you perform in games.
Henery, a fourth-round pick in 2011, set an Eagles rookie record for accuracy, but his field-goal accuracy has fallen each season - from 88.9 percent to 87.1 to 82.1, and last year, with the Birds struggling to cover kicks at times, he couldn't seem to drill a kickoff for a touchback at a critical time - most notably in the playoff loss to New Orleans in January, when the Saints ended up with a chip-shot field goal to win after a long Darren Sproles runback.
"I don't know if his leg strength is better as much as his technique on hitting the ball is a little improved," Fipp said. "So he's getting a little bit more ball flight. But it's still a work in progress. He's working hard at it. Hopefully, in these next 2 weeks he can come up with some really good performances in the stadium, both on his kickoffs and his field goals. But we're keeping an eye on everybody."
Henery's only competition in camp has been rookie free agent Carey Spear, who has been wildly inaccurate and hasn't been used in a preseason game.
"Carey did a good job initially. I think he pressed Alex in a lot of ways. But he faded off there," Fipp said. "Alex is tough guy to beat out. He is at times extremely accurate. We'll see. We'll see how the next 2 weeks go.
"The bottom line is he's got to be better. He's had a good training camp. We obviously monitor all of his kicks in competitive situations . Those numbers were good. All the way up to that 47-yarder there ."
Fipp said he thinks special teams overall ought to be better, with the Eagles upgrading their depth.
"The back end of our roster, no question, is much better. And now that's got to lead to better play. We have to have more consistent performance . . . We've definitely shown progress, but like I've said to Alex, we have to do that in the stadium or it doesn't matter. We have to play well in games," he said.
BREAKING NEWS: Eagles coach Chip Kelly said yesterday that LeSean McCoy's sore toe is so serious, "I don't think he'll ever play again."
Unbelievably, Kelly managed a smile while delivering this devastating news to a tent full of somber repor . . . what? You say he was kidding? Oh. Never mind, then.
"He practiced fully yesterday, he's fine," Kelly said. "It's not as big an issue as I think anybody's made it out to be."
After practicing fully Monday, McCoy attributed his absence from the Birds' Sunday workout to "a small version of turf toe," which he said was a significant source of pain during Friday's preseason game at New England, and "was at an all-time high, as far as pain," when he sat out on Sunday.
McCoy also talked Monday about how much he hated to miss practice. When a USA Today reporter tried weaving that thread into a theme with Kelly yesterday, the coach seemed reluctant to play along.
"LeSean's a competitor. He wants to be out there. It was just one incident. There's a lot of questions about a toe for a practice in August," Kelly said. The reporter clarifed that he was asking not so much about this injury, but McCoy's "intensity as a practice player."
"It's OK," Kelly said, smiling. "Some days he's great out there. There's other days he's not so great."
Camp sights *
The Eagles made their first roster move since June, releasing linebacker Jason Phillips. Phillips is a former Raven and Panther who was slated to be a special-teams stalwart when the Eagles signed him last year, but he tore an ACL in training camp. He has not seemed to run as well this year. A source close to the situation said the Eagles made the move now, well ahead of the Aug. 26 mandated cutdown from 90 to 75 players, to give Phillips a better chance to catch on elsewhere.
* Chip Kelly said he has not formulated a plan for how much starters will play tomorrow night against the Steelers, the third preseason game, in which starters traditionally get the most work. He said wide receivers Brad Smith (groin) and Josh Huff (shoulder) will not play. Huff said he has a sprained AC joint, and felt pretty good yesterday, but has no idea how long he will be sidelined.
* Raising the practice-squad limit from eight to 10 and allowing two of the practice-squadders to have as much as 2 years' worth of game experience in the league could take the pressure off a few roster decisions for the Eagles. Under the new rules, they could stick a Jeff Maehl, a Dennis Kelly or even a Chris Polk on the practice squad, though Polk would have to come off after six games. Of course, everyone on the practice squad is available to be signed to another team's active roster.