Thursday, December 29, 2011
Alex Henery has made his last 14 field goal attempts. (US Presswire)
By Reuben Frank
December 29, 2011
It’s not that he’s comatose, it’s just that nothing affects him. Nothing bothers him. Nothing ever gets to him.
OK, maybe he is comatose.
“My wife will always say, ‘How do you not stress out about anything?’” Alex Henery said. “And I just say, ‘There’s no reason to stress out about anything, it’s not going to make something better or worse.’
“I don’t really stress on myself, whether it’s football or life. It’s just how I approach things. If something big is coming up, my wife will say, ‘How are you not nervous?’ I don’t really know. I just don’t get nervous. Stressing out never helped. It’s just how I approach things I guess. It works out.”
So far, it’s worked out very well.
The Eagles cut ties with one of the greatest kickers in NFL history, six-time Pro Bowl pick David Akers, and replaced him with a rookie fourth-round draft pick. And if that’s not pressure, what is?
“Coming here to fill Dave’s shoes, I never really stressed myself about that,” Henery said. “I just wanted to come here, show what I can do, do my job the best I can, and it’ll all work out how it works out.”
Whatever his approach, it’s working. Since missing two field goals in the Eagles’ loss to the 49ers, Henery has been perfect.
He’s made 14 consecutive field goals, the fifth-longest streak in franchise history and just three shy of Akers’ club record of 17, set in 2001 and matched in 2009. And he’s within range of both the NFL single-season rookie accuracy record and Akers’ single-season Eagles accuracy record.
Overall, Henery is 22 for 25 on field goal attempts this year (88 percent), including a miss from 63 yards against the Falcons.
With one or more field goals without a miss in the Eagles’ finale against the Redskins on Sunday, he’ll break Akers’ franchise record of 88.2 percent accuracy, set in 2002.
Henery is also working on the second-most accurate rookie placekicking season in NFL history. No. 1 is current Cowboys rookie Dan Bailey, who has made 32 of 36 attempts (88.9 percent) this year. So any combination of one Bailey miss and no Henery misses will leave Henery as the most accurate rookie kicker ever.
All of this, by the way, is of zero interest to Henery.
“It doesn’t really mean too much,” he said. “Just like in college, the records I got, I couldn’t even tell you what they were.”
One of them happens to be the NCAA record for most accurate kicker in college football history at 90 percent.
Take away the 63-yard attempt just before halftime in Atlanta and Henery is right in that 90 percent range again ... 92 percent, actually.
Rarified territory for any kicker.
“He’s continued to work at it,” special teams coach Bobby April said. “Certainly, working with the same two guys (long snapper Jon Dorenbos and holder Chas Henry) has helped him. And I think even adjusting to the NFL has helped him.
“Even though it’s easier to kick on the Pro hash than the college hash, he was in a habit of a different approach to the ball for so long kicking it off the wider hashes that even though it was easier ... it took a while for us to get the right approach.
“He’s doing a good job. I think he’s just going to keep getting better and stronger.”
Most importantly, Henery has rebounded from that disappointing day against the 49ers. Since missing wide right from 33 and 39 yards in a game the Eagles lost by one point, he’s made all 14 attempts he’s taken in the Eagles’ last 11 games.
Henery said the 49ers game didn’t shake his confidence – after all, Akers missed two field goals in that game as well. Instead, he used it as a learning experience, studying the two misses and making sure not to make the same mistakes again.
“I guess that’s how I approach everything,” he said. “Whether you do good or bad, just move on from the next one. Don’t let it affect you too much, just move on to the next kick.”
Overall this year, Henery ranks eighth in the NFL among kickers with 20 or more attempts at 88.0 percent.
For the record, Akers (three times) and Gary Anderson (in 1996) are the only Eagles kickers in history to make 85 percent of their kicks in a season.
“I guess it shows the hard work I’ve put into it and myself wanting to be perfect every attempt,” he said. “That’s really the big thing – just being happy with how I hit the ball. That’s more important than the records. I really don’t pay attention to the records. If I focus on each kick, those things will come with it. That’s kind of how I look at it.
“As long as I’m doing my job, those numbers will come how I want them to be. You can’t think like, ‘Oh, if I miss this one my percentage will go down to this or that.’ Just prepare for each kick the best you can.”
Most of Henery’s field goals were mid-range this season, but he bombed a 47-yarder against the Bears in November and easily made a career-long 51-yarder Sunday in the Eagles’ win over the Cowboys. He’s a perfect 5 for 5 this year on attempts in the 40s and 50s.
“I think he’s getting stronger as the season goes on,” head coach Andy Reid said. “It looks like he’s doing a good job. Looks like his kickoffs are maintaining their depth, and even a couple extra yards on to it where he’s booting a few of them out of the end zone, and that’s a good thing.”
Henery said what looks like him getting stronger is actually just him becoming a better kicker.
“I don’t know if I’ve gotten stronger,” he said. “I’m not trying to get stronger during the season, just trying to maintain. I think it’s really more just hitting the ball where I want to hit the ball.
“A lot of kickers will over-kick and then they’ll decline as the year goes on. I just feel like I’m a good rhythm, hitting the ball well, and it’s been going in.”