The addition of five Pro Bowl players this offseason has led many to consider the team as one of the best in the National Football League.
Yet for the first time since 1939, the Eagles will be counting on a pair of rookies - kicker Alex Henery and punter Chas Henry - to help them win big games. In fact, the Eagles have literally handed the jobs to the rookies, as they don't even have any other kicker or punter in camp as competition.
Henery was drafted in the fourth round to replace David Akers, a five-time Pro Bowler and arguably the greatest kicker in team history. However, replacing a legend doesn't even faze Henery. In fact, he's done it before. Twice.
"It's the same thing when I went to Nebraska," Henery said. "There were good guys that came there: Josh Brown, Kris Brown. David was a great kicker for the Eagles. But I'm just here to do my job."
Henery possesses an extremely powerful leg, remarkable consistency and the work ethic of a perfectionist. In college, he connected on a game-winning 57-yard field goal as a sophomore to beat Colorado. And he ended his college career with the highest field goal percentage in NCAA history.
But for Henery, there is no difference between a record-setting field goal and a chip shot.
"Kicking is all mental really - just make sure you're ready for moments like that," Henery said. "It's pretty hard to train for that so it's just the way you approach things, your mental stability on that and everything, doing what you usually do and not changing anything ... It's a routine, telling yourself the same thing: to approach every kick the same, whether it's an extra point or a 55-yarder."
Like Henery, teammate Chas Henry has some relatively large shoes to fill. He is replacing Sav Rocca, who set the franchise single-season record for net punting average in three straight seasons.
That's not to say that Henry doesn't have a pretty impressive resume of his own. At Florida, he played for a national champion team as a sophomore in 2008. Last year, he won the Ray Guy Award as the nation's top college punter, averaging more than 45 yards per punt.
And like Henery, Chas Henry doesn't feel any extra pressure taking over for Sav Rocca.
"It's the NFL so there's a reason why the guys are in this league," Henry said. "(Sav's) a great punter and that's a great punter that Washington just got. I just have to come out here and do my best, and for me, that means 75 plays a year. Those 75 have to be great every single time I go out there."
Unlike Henery, however, Henry wasn't drafted. He was scouted by a number of teams as a rookie free agent but ultimately decided to sign with the Eagles.
"This is a great organization," Henry said. "They're a playoff contender every single year, and I don't like losing. I wanted to go somewhere where I had a chance to win every single year."
For Henry, his duties also include holding, something that he did for two years in college, until an injury to Florida's kicker forced him into field goal duty as a senior.
"That's one thing that I probably take more pride in than anything," Henry said. "If I screw up on a punt, that's my fault, but I'm not going to screw up that kicker on his kick."
Henery and Henry have formed a tight bond during training camp with the third member of their special teams unit - longsnapper Jon Dorenbos.
Dorenbos has had an interesting adjustment, as he is spending the 2011 season working with the 23-year old Henery and 22-year old Henry, just a year after working with 36-year-old David Akers and 37-year-old Sav Rocca.
"Part of playing at this level is being able to adjust and being able to work well with players on a quick basis, but these guys came in and they knew what they were doing," said Dorenbos, a nine-year veteran and a Pro Bowl selection in 2009. "I think that for the short amount of time that we've been together, we've made a lot of progress and we really enjoy working together, and hopefully that will translate into success on the field."
Special teams coordinator Bobby April said that he has been extremely impressed by the rapid development that both Henery and Henry have shown in the two weeks of training camp.
"Talent-level, they're way ahead of the game for most players," April said. "They're eliminating their inconsistencies, but there aren't a lot. Day by day, they get a little bit better, and I think they're both going to have a long career in the National Football League. I like their confidence, I like their talent and I like their ability to know what they have to do after they hit the ball."
The kicking abilities of the Henry/Henery combination will be shown to a television audience for the first time on August 11, as the Philadelphia Eagles host the Baltimore Ravens (TV: 6abc, 7:30 PM; NFL Network 11 PM; Radio: 94 WYSP; Internet: PhiladelphiaEagles.com) in the first preseason game of the 2011 season.
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