Henry says holding gives him advantage
BETHLEHEM, Pa. – When Alex Henery kicked the game-winning field goal last Thursday with just 12 seconds remaining to give the Eagles a 24-23 win over the Steelers, Chas Henry was the holder.
The incumbent punter, who is battling Mat McBriar for the position on the roster, was scheduled to punt and hold for the second half of Thursday’s game. While that was just the product of Henry’s being behind McBriar on the depth chart, it makes sense that he would be the one to hold such an important kick.
“[Special teams coach] Bobby [April] said he wanted me in the second half in case anything happened because we had worked together,” Henry said.
Henry and Henery are comfortable together. They both came into training camp as rookies last season – Henery a fourth-round draft pick out of Nebraska, Henry an undrafted free agent from Florida – and worked together all of last year.
Henery set an Eagles’ rookie record with 118 points in 2011. His 24 field goals were the second-most ever by an Eagles’ rookie. And Henry was the holder through it all.
Henry believes his comfort level with Henery and long snapper Jon Dorenbos gives him an advantage in the competition.
“I definitely think so,” Henry said. “We worked a lot last year and coming into training camp, and then all last season and through minicamp and we’re very comfortable – Jon, Alex and I, all three of us.”
McBriar can hold too. The former Pro Bowler in Dallas was a holder for the Cowboys but at times struggled, most notably in 2009 when he struggled to hold for Nick Folk.
"I've always worked with [Folk] even when Brad [Johnson] was here in practice," McBriar said to ESPN in 2009. "Some reason, we get in the games and I get a little bit ahead of myself and I lunge out to catch the ball, which I shouldn't. Every time I should catch the ball over the spot, and I move forward. It's something in my brain, I don't know."
April said he hasn’t noticed anything wrong with McBriar’s holding ability since he’s been in camp or even before. But kickers can be finicky in who holds their kicks and Henery, who finished the 2011 season as the most accurate rookie kicker in NFL history, isn’t going anywhere.
Earlier in August, April said he would “absolutely” discuss the punter/holder position with Henery.
“His feedback on that will be critical,” April said. “I mean, it won’t be a deal-breaker because both guys can hold. When there’s a big separation in their ability to hold, obviously it’s more of a factor.
“But absolutely I will get his feedback and relay it to the head coach because it’s important. To me, that’s the biggest play in football right now. So many games come down, the real gut-check games come down to a field goal, and so many games now are so close. Boy, that play, you better get that play in, you better get that play successful.”
Henry and Henery appear to be close. Their lockers are next to each other at the NovaCare Complex, and they are often seen hanging out in and around the Eagles’ facilities.
As far as punting goes, neither guy has been great. McBriar punted three times in the preseason opener for an average of 39.3 yards and a long of 43. Henry punted four times for an average of 33.8 yards but the number was understandably lower – he had two punts land inside the 20-yard line – with a long of 54.
McBriar is still recovering from off-season surgery to remove a cyst in his non-punting leg but is first on the depth chart. Henry said April told him that the team would give McBriar an “equal opportunity” and had a “good shot” to win the job away from him.
“I’m just gonna go out and do the best I can each day and hopefully try to win a job,” Henry said. “I feel like I’ve done well. I had one punt I would like to have back in the game. I’m holding well and punting pretty well.”E-mail Dave Zangaro at firstname.lastname@example.org