Eagles kicker Henery gets new holder; snapper, too?

Alex Henery kicks at Arizona with since-released punter Chas Henry holding.
Alex Henery kicks at Arizona with since-released punter Chas Henry holding. (YONG KIM /STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER)
Posted: September 28, 2012

BY RELEASING punter Chas Henry on Tuesday because of a lack of consistency, Eagles coach Andy Reid might inadvertently be throwing off one of his most consistent performers: kicker Alex Henery.

With long snapper Jon Dorenbos possibly sidelined by a high ankle sprain for Sunday night's home game with the Giants, Henery could have two new moving parts in the booting process.

New punter Mat McBriar will handle the holding duties. Kyle Nelson, who has never taken a snap in an NFL regular-season game, would replace Dorenbos on the roster. Nelson was signed to the Eagles' practice squad on Tuesday after nearly making San Francisco's roster out of training camp.

"When you change anyone, it's going to be an adjustment," said Henery, who has missed just two kicks (16-for-18) in his career at Lincoln Financial Field. "I don't think it will take too long, really. I just need to get the tempo down. It's one of those things that you deal with the situation, go with it, and make it work."

The only good news for Henery is that he worked with McBriar holding in the preseason, though he said he wasn't really able to get into any rhythm since McBriar - the two-time Pro Bowler with the Cowboys - had different timing than Henry.

For Henery, the snap is more critical to his tempo than the hold.

"You either watch the snapper or the holder," Henery said. "I watch the snapper snap the ball, which is a little different than most guys. I like to be able to see the ball, see the trajectory of it and the speed. I base [my timing] off how [the ball] is coming back when I take my first steps.

"If it's coming in high, I know I can hold my first step and then get two steps in when the holder gets it down. It's where you start your rhythm."

Last Sunday in Arizona, Henery said, his kicks were timed at around 1.15 seconds, from snap to follow through. Anywhere from 1.25 to 1.3 seconds is the league norm, though he conceded that Dorenbos and Henry were "really fast."

Henery said you get into trouble when the entire process breaks 1.3 seconds. He was planning on working on timing and tempo with Nelson and McBriar on Wednesday and Thursday.

Reid said Dorenbos was not limping when he returned to the NovaCare Complex on Wednesday, which was a change from Tuesday. Dorenbos, 32, has played in 95 consecutive games since joining the Eagles in 2006. He did not practice Wednesday.

There is much more that goes into long snapping than actually being able to snap the ball.

"To step onto the field, he's got to be functional," Reid said. "He's got to be able to move."

Nelson can move well for a 6-3, 240-pounder. He ran a 4.63-second 40-yard dash during his 2011 pro day at New Mexico State, where he played tight end. His father, Mark Nelson, was a special-teams coach at Baylor, Tulsa, Louisville and East Carolina before moving on to his current position of defensive coordinator for the CFL's Edmonton Eskimos.

Last week, Nelson was watching the Eagles' loss to the Cardinals in Phoenix - where he lives - without having any idea he was soon heading to Philadelphia. He has spent time with the Saints, 49ers and Chiefs in his young career.

"I've been taking 100 to 150 snaps a day, working on everything, including blocking," Nelson said. "The day I got cut and got back to Phoenix, I went to the weight room and started working with my coach. It's nerve-racking, waiting for a call. I didn't take a [side job] yet, but I was starting to look."

Nelson's goal is to make the entire operation run smoothly. One reason Henry beat out McBriar for the punting job out of camp - other than health, since McBriar was still recovering from February surgery to remove a cyst below his left knee - was his holding chemistry with Henery. McBriar's holding history has been questioned, though he did not have any hiccups with the Eagles this preseason.

If Nelson does his job, he said, everything else will fall into place. Laces out, like Ray Finkle said in "Ace Ventura: Pet Detective."

"It's about laces and placement," Nelson said. "You want it fast. Everyone wants it to be fast. But you want to make sure it lands with the laces being out, so the holder doesn't have to [spin it] and you can get the kick off quicker."

Admittedly, Henery knows that there are a lot of moving parts to come together before Sunday night.

"It's nice that I've worked with Mat before," Henery said. "I know how he handles the ball. I try to eliminate [the mental] factor. It's the only thing I do, so I try to not think too much into it and let my instincts and muscle memory take over."

Contact Frank Seravalli at seravaf@phillynews.com. Follow him on Twitter @DNFlyers.


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