On Sunday, the Eagles open the 2011 season against the Rams in the Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis.
Among the rookies who will make their NFL debuts are kicker Alex Henery and punter Chas Henry. They were the only two players at their respective positions on the roster during training camp and the preseason. The tandem will comprise of the first all-rookie specialist group the Eagles have had on an opening-day roster since 1979 (kicker Tony Franklin, punter Max Runager).
While the last names sound exactly the same, the two don't share any blood relation, but they come to the Eagles with similarly impressive pedigrees. Henery ranks as the most accurate kicker in the history of NCAA football, converting 68 of 76 career field goal attempts (89.5 percent) for Nebraska. He was selected in the fourth round of this year's draft. Henry was the recipient of the 2010 Ray Guy Award, given to the nation's top punter.
Now, last year's top two collegiate specialists will try to make their mark at the professional level.
"I'm definitely excited to play this Sunday," said Henery. "I just need to go out there and kick the ball solidly and with good fundamentals. If I do that, I know the success will come."
"It's going to be electric in St. Louis," said the rookie punter. "I'm excited. We have a great team, and we all expect great things from ourselves. I don't mind the added pressure that goes along with that at all. I love winning, and I'd rather play for a winner and have that pressure on me than play for a losing team."
The "Hen(e)rys," as they've been aptly dubbed, have earned the confidence of special teams coordinator Bobby April. The accomplished coach is not used to working with young talent at those two positions, having mostly veteran kickers and punters on his rosters in the past. He is confident that the newest additions to the Eagles specialist group will help win games this season.
"This year will be different in that regard, but the young guys don't give me any reason to be nervous," April said. "They're both competitors and winners, and they've accomplished great things in their careers up to this point. I think they'll continue to have success at this level."
The adjustment to life in the NFL can be tough for many rookies to handle, but the two specialists say that they've been able to help support one another throughout the process.
"I knew Alex from playing with him in the Senior Bowl," said Henry. "He's a great guy, and we hit it off right away. He was a big part of why I decided to sign with Philadelphia as a rookie free agent. Being able to go through the same ups and downs, and having the same daily routine with him has been a great fit. I wouldn't want to have it any other way."
Henery echoed his teammate's sentiment.
"It's helped a lot," he said. "Just having another rookie here with me every day going through the same drills has been great. Also, our long snapper Jon Dorenbos has been tremendous in helping us adapt to the professional level. He's been around for a while and has a lot of good insight."
With the Eagles playing their first two regular season games at the Edwards Jones Dome in St. Louis and the Georgia Dome in Atlanta, the should two take comfort in knowing that they will be kicking in a controlled environment, safe from the unpredictability of Mother Nature. Getting off to a solid start and building confidence early will be a huge factor for the success of both rookies this season. However, if all goes according to plan for the Eagles offense Sunday, Henery will only be trotted out for chip-shot PATs and kickoffs while Henry won't have to punt.
"I'll take my attempts however they come," said Henery. "If the offense is efficient and they don't need me out there kicking field goals, that's totally fine with me."
Make sure to follow us on Twitter @EaglesInsider