McBriar replaces Henry as Eagles punter

Mat McBriar was a Pro Bowl punter in 2006 and 2010 with Dallas, but has been recovering from February foot surgery. SCOTT R. GALVIN / Associated Press
Mat McBriar was a Pro Bowl punter in 2006 and 2010 with Dallas, but has been recovering from February foot surgery. SCOTT R. GALVIN / Associated Press
Posted: September 26, 2012

Despite averaging 48.3 yards a punt, Chas Henry was released Tuesday, and the Eagles brought back former Pro Bowl punter Mat McBriar to take his place.

As robust as many of Henry's kicks had been this season, the second-year punter was inconsistent. And even when he did get hold of one, Henry often would out-kick his coverage with low-trajectory punts.

On Sunday against Arizona, he averaged 49.2 yards on five punts. But his net was 38.8, and Arizona averaged 10.4 yards a return. His 48.3-yard gross was 11th best in the NFL this year, but his 38-yard net was 23d in the league.

The Eagles acquired McBriar in July at the start of training camp. He arrived less than completely healthy - 90 percent was often the estimate - as he recovered from February foot surgery.

McBriar had a cyst removed from his right foot - his "plant" foot - that was pressing on a nerve. He wore a brace at the start of camp, but he consistently boomed kicks that were higher than Henry's.

Still, he continued to walk with a pronounced limp, and there were concerns about his placeholding for kicker Alex Henery.

Henry, meanwhile, responded to the punting competition and won the spot before the opener. He got off to a strong start and averaged 55 yards on six punts at Cleveland. But Henry, whom the Eagles acquired as an undrafted rookie last summer, regressed in the second game. His five punts averaged just 39.2 yards, and he shanked a punt just before the half that Baltimore turned into three points.

Special-teams coordinator Bobby April said last week that Henry was battling a technical issue with his drop.

"Do I think he's going to get more consistent? Yes," April said then. "Will he totally iron out the deal and never have a bad punt? Absolutely not. He's going to miss some. He may have a game or two where he misses some."

One game was all it took for the Eagles to pull the plug and bring back McBriar, the former Dallas Cowboy who signed a two-year contract. The 33-year-old Australian was selected for the Pro Bowl in 2006 and 2010 when he led the NFL in both gross (48.2 and 47.9) and net punting (42.2 and 42.3).

McBriar's numbers dipped dramatically last season (43.8 and 36.1), however, as he dealt with his foot problem.

The Eagles believe that he is healthy enough to return to form. As for holding, April and Henery admitted earlier this month that there was more comfort with Henry. McBriar hasn't held for several seasons. There weren't any issues during the preseason, though.

Not only will Henery have a new holder on Sunday when the Eagles host the New York Giants, he may have a new long snapper as well. Jon Dorenbos has a high-ankle sprain, and his status is in question.

The Eagles addressed the uncertainty on Tuesday by adding long snapper Kyle Nelson to the practice squad and releasing wide receiver Jeremy Ebert.

Contact Jeff McLane at 215-854-4745 or Follow on Twitter @Jeff_McLane.


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