Henery refining his technique

Posted: June 13, 2014

REGARDING the Eagles competition at kicker, the telling days won't come until training camp and the four preseason games. As coach Chip Kelly said of the kickers before Monday's organized team activity, "A lot of times right now it's like they are going out on the driving range and hitting balls."

But while it's tough now to gauge performance without live action, the right leg of Alex Henery will surely garner its share of attention between the end of OTAs this week and the Sept. 7 season-opener against the Jaguars. Five months removed from a less-than-stellar performance in the postseason loss to the Saints, Henery finds himself in competition for his job going into his fourth NFL season.

Henery, 23 of 28 in field goals last season and inconsistent when it came to booting kickoffs for touchbacks, has been kicking in practice alongside Carey Spear (aka "Murderleg"), the undrafted free agent out of Vanderbilt. In the four OTA sessions opened to reporters, it has been evident that Henery remains the favorite to remain the Eagles' kicker come September. The team concludes its 10 OTAs this week before a mandatory 3-day minicamp next week.

"Competition is always good. It makes everyone better," Henery said after a recent practice. "So it's just one of those things. I mean it's an individual thing where we're both different in how we kick the ball, but in the end it pushes you to be better."

Over three seasons as the Eagles' kicker, Henery has converted 74 of his 86 field-goal attempts. He set a franchise record as a rookie in 2011 by connecting on 88.9 percent of field goals, but last season was just 8-for-12 on field goals ranging 40 yards or more. His 48-yard field goal attempt that sailed wide left in the two-point loss to the Saints proved crucial, as did his kickoff that wasn't deep enough to force a touchback after the late go-ahead touchdown.

While home this offseason in Omaha, Nebraska, Henery, 26, said he worked on adding a few extra yards to his kickoffs. It's a matter of technique, he said, and improves with practice. Although he finished his All-American career at Nebraska as the most accurate kicker in NCAA history and also punted for the Cornhuskers, he was not tasked with kickoffs until reaching the NFL.

"I think he's gotten a little bit stronger in terms of the distance he's kicking the ball and in terms of where we are placing the ball during kickoff drill," Kelly said. "Excited to see where it is, especially when we get into some real live situations."

In addition to building strength, the offseason offers ample time to tweak the more minute technical aspects of kicking. Henery, 6-1 and 177 pounds, likens it to a golf swing. You don't, after all, necessarily need to be the biggest or strongest person in the world to drive a golf ball 300 yards.

"Kicking-wise, if you look at [6-1, 258-pound Raiders kicker] Sebastian Janikowski and me, totally different kickers, totally different ways of kicking, but I mean you can both produce results," Henery said. "It's just like a golfer. You get some of your bigger, taller golfers and then you get the small guys that are smaller than me that can hit the ball a mile. It's one of those things. It's a lot of technique."

During the offseason, Henery said he picked the brains of a few guys around the league and also watched film of other kickers to see if there was anything he could pick up to boost his kickoffs. Mostly, it's a matter of refining technique.

"I think a lot of it is more body position and finishing through the ball," he said. "My kickoffs the last few years have been more kind of a field-goal style . . . Some of the guys you see have a lot of touchbacks, there's more finish through the ball, getting that momentum going up and through it. So that's a big thing that I've been working on."

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