We'll see if Akers move is right one

Alex Henery kicks during Senior Bowl practice in January. The Eagles are gambling he can adequately replace David Akers.
Alex Henery kicks during Senior Bowl practice in January. The Eagles are gambling he can adequately replace David Akers. (DAVE MARTIN / Associated Press)
Posted: May 02, 2011

It is a risky business, this discarding of players before their expiration dates hit. The Eagles pride themselves in being ahead of the curve in evaluating the endgame of a player's usefulness. Many times, they have been right.

But when they have been wrong, boy, have they been wrong.

Andy Reid this time is banking on being right when it comes to the placekicker position. By selecting Nebraska's Alex Henery in the fourth round on Saturday, Reid essentially signaled the end of David Akers' 12-year career here. The Eagles will not keep two kickers on their 2011 roster, if there is a 2011 roster, and they certainly will not be willing to scratch Henery a check for the $450,000 roster bonus he would be due in the event they cut him.

So Akers is out, Henery is in. Era over. Thanks for playing.

Akers got the news right before he was to coach one of his son's flag football games on Saturday. He was not as blindsided as Donovan McNabb was in 2007 when the Eagles, without warning, used their first pick to select Kevin Kolb, but the message to Akers nonetheless was clear. Akers did not want to talk about it on Sunday, but he knows that whenever next season begins, if it begins, he will be playing elsewhere.

It is a reality that those who have come before Akers have had to accept. The Eagles make no exceptions. Ask McNabb, or Brian Westbrook, or Troy Vincent, or Brian Dawkins, or countless others. It does not matter how many Pro Bowls or NFC championship games you've been to or how much the fans love you, when the franchise determines that it is time, you must go.

Akers is simply the latest in a long line. Some players, like Jeremiah Trotter, have left in tears. Others, like McNabb, have left in defiance. All undoubtedly have wanted to make the Eagles regret their decision, not that Reid or Joe Banner would ever admit to being wrong.

But they have been wrong, both about the player they were showing the door and the one they had named as successor.

Dawkins is one example. The Eagles let him walk via free agency in 2009, even though there was not a proven player available to take Dawkins' place. Quintin Demps took the first-team reps through minicamps and training camp, but he lost the job to rookie Macho Harris, a fifth-round pick from Virginia Tech, by Week 1 of the season. Harris was underwhelming in eight starts, and Sean Jones was not much better. Neither made the roster in 2010.

Dawkins, meanwhile, became the leader of Denver's young defense. It took on his personality, playing with aggression and abandon, and Dawkins' efforts, including two interceptions and a forced fumble, earned him an eighth career Pro Bowl invitation.

Last year, the Eagles drafted Nate Allen 37th overall and anointed him the starting free safety. He played reasonably well until rupturing the patella tendon in his right knee in December. Another rookie, seventh-round pick Kurt Coleman, finished up the season. The Eagles were so impressed they went out and selected Temple safety Jaiquawn Jarrett with the 54th overall pick in this draft.

On Friday, Reid said of Jarrett: "It's not fair to compare him to Brian Dawkins," and then he did precisely that. "They're the same stature, size, same speed, and they both will torch you," Reid said. "[They're] different personalities, different guys, but I don't think you want to run over the middle on either one of them. They'll both blow you up."

Maybe so, but suffice it to say the Eagles are still trying to replace Dawkins.

They're still trying to replace Sheldon Brown, too. Last offseason, the Eagles traded Brown to Cleveland, and handed over his starting cornerback job to Ellis Hobbs, who was coming off neck surgery. Sure enough, in addition to getting burned by Tennessee wide receiver Kenny Britt, Hobbs ended the season on injured reserve with a neck injury.

Brown played all 16 games of the 2010 season for the Browns, just as he had in five of his previous six seasons in Philadelphia. He was as reliable and tough as there was, and the Eagles let him go, too.

In 2010, the 36-year-old Akers was 31 of 35 (88.6 percent) on field goals from inside the 50-yard line, and his 32 overall field goals and 143 points were the second-best single-season output in franchise history, behind Akers' record-setting performance in 2008. Akers had a career-high five touchbacks against Tennessee in October, made 13 of 14 field goals in November to earn NFC special teams player of the month honors, and in December executed an onside kick midway through the fourth quarter that helped propel the Eagles to a dramatic victory over the New York Giants.

Akers' detractors will point to two missed field goals against Green Bay in the playoffs for reason enough to let him go, but before that he had only missed five field goals in 17 postseason games.

Maybe Henery will be that strong. He finished his Nebraska career as the most accurate kicker in NCAA history. His only miss as a senior was on a 51-yarder that was blocked, and he hit 10 from 40 yards out.

But Henery did not handle kickoffs during his career for the Huskers. That duty was handled by a player named Adi Kunalic. Maybe Kunalic can help replace Akers, too, or maybe the Eagles were right. They'd better hope so, because when they are wrong, they are really wrong.

Contact columnist Ashley Fox at 215-854-5064 or afox@phillynews.com. Follow her on Twitter: www.twitter.com/AshleyMFox.

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