Rookie Specialists- Will The Hen(e)rys Hold The Eagles Back?

One of the major concerns for the Philadelphia Eagles heading into the season is their special teams situation. The Eagles are heading into the season with a rookie kicker (Alex Henery) and a rookie punter (Chas Henry). People might think that special teams is far less important than the offense or defense but I maintain that its just as important. I’ve always said that special teams can be the difference between a winning record and a losing record.

If you need any proof of that then look no further than the Chicago Bears. In seasons where Devin Hester has returned kicks/punts for touchdowns the Chicago Bears are 31-17. In the two seasons where he hasn’t the Bears are 16-16.

And we all know that kicking can be the difference in a close game. In the last twenty seasons, nearly half, (or 46%) of NFL games have been decided by 7 points or less, and nearly 24% by 3 points or less.

But we sleep on punters a little bit. These guys can win games for teams. They change field position and put offenses in bad spots. Field position is far more valuable than you might think. The further you pin a team back, the less likely they are to score, this is proven on every level of football. Do you think that its any coincidence that 8 of the top teams with the best average starting field position made the playoffs while the only team in the bottom 10 to make it was the Colts (thanks to Peyton Manning)? I don’t, field position is critical. And if you need any further proof of that go and turn on the shellacking the Cowboys gave the Eagles in the playoffs two seasons ago, the Eagles were dominated in the field position battle.

So how does the outlook look for the Eagles’ rookies? Well, I took the time to look up every single rookie kicker and punter since the year 2000. I may have a missed a few, lord knows that I can make mistakes but at the very least I gathered a vast majority of them.

Chas Henry

The first list is a list of rookie punters since the year 2000, the top row are the averages. The first column is the name of the punter. The second column is the amount of punts the rookie made. The second column is the average distance traveled per punt. The third column counts the punts that were downed inside the 20. The final column is the amount of punts that were returned for touchdowns. All these numbers are from the players’ rookie year.

Punter Name
Averages –>

Punts 54.59615385

Avg. Dist.
41.22115385

Inside 20
14.82692308

TD Ret
0

Tim Masthay

71

43.9

25

1

Matt Dodge

72

44.8

20

2

Zoltan Mesko

58

43.2

19

0

Britton Colquitt

86

44.6

19

0

Chris Bryan

23

37.4

7

0

Kevin Huber

86

43.2

24

0

Thomas Morstead

58

45.9

18

1

Brett Kern

46

46.7

13

1

Durant Brooks

26

39.6

9

2

Sam Paulescu

5

44.2

2

0

Jeremy Kapinos

5

41.6

2

0

Daniel Sepulveda

68

42.4

28

1

Adam Podlesh

54

41.6

14

0

Mike Barr

59

40.4

15

1

Sav Rocca

73

42

24

1

Ryan Plackemeier

84

45

25

0

S. Weatherford

77

43.8

19

0

Sam Koch

86

43

16

0

Jon Ryan

84

44.5

17

1

Reggie Hodges

41

37.4

9

1

Dustin Colquitt

69

39.4

27

0

Michael Koenen

78

42.3

23

0

Chris Kluwe

71

44.1

17

0

Ryan Flinn

6

36.3

0

0

BJ Sander

64

39.2

11

0

Andy Groom

11

39

2

0

Ben Graham

74

43.7

18

0

Andy Lee

96

41.6

25

0

Donnie Jones

26

38

6

0

Kyle Larson

83

42.2

21

0

Derrick Frost

85

40

24

0

Nick Murphy

18

43.2

6

0

Mat McBriar

75

42.4

22

0

Stephen Cheek

42

39.1

8

1

Eddie Johnson

56

39.1

12

0

Brooks Banard

10

36.5

4

0

Matt Scrifes

69

43.1

29

0

Craig Jarrett

20

38.6

5

0

Matt Allen

63

36.9

20

0

Filip Filipovic

65

40.6

14

0

Bill LaFluer

22

36.6

5

0

James Tuthill

4

40

0

0

Dirk Johnson

8

38.4

1

0

Jason Baker

69

40.8

21

0

Nick Harris

84

40.1

21

0

Rodney Williams

91

42.9

25

1

Brian Moorman

80

40.8

16

0

John Baker

43

40.4

13

0

Barry Cantrell

10

36.7

3

0

Shane Lechler

65

45.9

24

0

Josh Bidwell

78

38.5

22

1

Micah Knorr

58

42.8

12

0

Robert Malone

52

41.5

17

0

These numbers say that rookie punters average about 41 yards per punt and have their punts downed inside the 20 about 27% of the time. But, its different for every player, that chart is just to let you gauge how rookie punters do in their first year in the NFL.

In college, Henry averaged 43.0 yards per punt with 68 of 165 (41.2 percent) of his punts ending up inside the opponents’ 20-yard line. So far in 2 preseason games he has 5 punts that averaged 45 yards and has had one downed inside the 20. He’s off to a pretty good start, there was one shank in there but other than that he has been solid.

One thing that is notable about the Eagles’ punter Chas Henry is that he won the Ray Guy award that is awarded annually to the nations best punter. Other punters in the NFL that have won this award include Durant Brooks, Daniel Sepulveda (2x), Ryan Plackemeier, BJ Sander, Travis Dorsch and Kevin Stemke. Outside of Deniel Sepulveda this isn’t a very impressive group, only Sepulveda has seen any extended time on a team.

Alex Henery

Alex Henery is a little bit of a different situation IMO. He was drafted so I’m not going to compare him to just any ‘ole rookie coming out of college, I’ll only compare him to those who were drafted into the league like Henery. And since Henery is going to be the clear cut kicker I’m not going to include rookies that attempted less than 10 kicks.

Kicker Name

Kicks Made

Kicks Att

FG %

Averages —>

21.75

28.25

79.80%

Ryan Succop

25

29

86.2

Nick Folk

26

31

83.9

Mason Crosby

31

39

71.5

S. Gostkowksi

20

26

76.9

Mike Nugent

22

28

78.6

Nate Kaeding

20

25

80

Josh Scobee

24

31

77.4

Josh Brown

22

30

73.3

Bill Gramatica

16

20

80

S. Janikowski

22

32

68.8

Neil Rackers

12

21

57.1

Paul Edinger

21

27

77.8

Those are okay numbers, they’re not quite as good as David Akers but that’s good enough to win games with. I’m about to go a little bit homer though because I think Henery is going to better than those numbers imply. I truly believe that Alex Henery is a special player. Just check out this report from NFL Draft Scout:

Strengths: Tall, very lean right-footed kicker. Extremely high trajectory on kicks to prevent blocks, even from long-range. Smooth but violent through the ball. Direct three-step approach on placements. Good leg strength, puts 50-plus field goals into the bottom of the net. Reliable from either hashmark.

Weaknesses: Gets a bit loose when trying to boot a long field goal, may lose balance when footing is poor.

Henery is the all time scoring leader at Nebraska, he has a monster leg, he has ice in his veins and he is the most accurate kicker in NCAA history. I think he is special.

Although it should be noted that the guy who held the “Most Accurate Kicker In NCAA History” title before Henery was Jeff Wolfert who hasn’t amounted to anything. In fact, nobody in the top 10 has done anything in the NFL.

Has It Been Done Before?

From what I saw there have been 9 teams since 2000 that had both a rookie kicker and punter on their roster at some time or another during the same season. Here is the list:

  • The 2007 Broncos were one of them with Sam Paulescu and Matt Prater.
  • The Eagles did this in 2005 when they had Reddgie Hodges and Todd France.
  • The 2004 San Diego Chargers had Matt Scrifes and Nate Kaeding.
  • The 2004 Kansas City Chiefs had Nick Murphy, Stephen Check and Lawrence Tynes.
  • The 2002 Cowboys had Filip Filipovic and Billy Cundiff.
  • The 2002 49ers had Bill LaFleur and Jeff Chandler.
  • The 2001 Bills had Brian Moorman and Shayne Graham.
  • The 2000 Raiders had Sebastian Janikowski and Shane Lechler.
  • The 2000 Rams had John Baker and Jeff Hall.

Of those teams only the 2004 Chargers (12-4), 2004 Chiefs (7-9), 2002 Cowboys (5-11), 2001 Buffalo Bills (3-13) and 2000 Oakland Raiders (12-4) had two rookies kickers on their roster for longer than half of a season. The teams that had decent talent in place (Chargers, Raiders, Chiefs) didn’t do terribly, the rookies were not a strain on the team and their performance. That’s a good sign. I can say with confidence that we’re far more talented than the 2002 Cowboys and the 2001 Bills.

Long story short, the Eagles should be fine barring some type of meltdown from one of the Hen(e)rys.

 

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