5 to watch: Alex Henery

PHILADELPHIA -- With training camp looming in a few weeks, let’s finish up our weeklong look at the Philadelphia Eagles players with the most to prove, and the most to lose, this summer.

Kicker Alex Henery will probably be back with the Eagles this season, but there was reason to wonder if the team would look hard for an alternative during the offseason.

Henery missed one of two field goal attempts in a two-point playoff loss to the New Orleans Saints. But that 48-yard miss, on the second play of the second quarter, didn’t have as much impact as a kickoff in the fourth quarter that fell two yards into the Saints’ end zone.

Darren Sproles, now an Eagle, returned that kickoff 39 yards and drew a penalty for a horse-collar tackle that gave the Saints the ball at midfield. Having just scored a go-ahead touchdown, the Eagles really could have used a blast through the end zone for a touchback there.

But that is not Henery. And the Eagles have been willing to trade the shorter kickoffs for the accuracy on field goals.

After making 15 of 16 attempts between 40 and 49 yards in his first two seasons, Henery made 7 of 10 such attempts in 2013. For his career, he is just 2-of-5 from 50 yards and out.

“The biggest challenge with Alex is he’s very accurate, over his career, on field goals 48 yards or less,” special teams coach Dave Fipp said. “A year ago, there were only two guys that were better than him in the National Football League. So when you’re looking into improving the position, it’s an interesting dynamic. You’ve got a guy who’s a really accurate field goal kicker, but his kickoffs are not up to par.”

The Eagles signed an undrafted rookie, Vanderbilt’s Carey Spear, to compete with Henery during camp this summer. Judging from Spear’s inconsistency during June practices, that doesn’t look like much of a competition.

But that doesn’t make Henery completely safe. And that is why this summer is important for him. He has to maintain that accuracy on field goals -- ideally, he would even improve on his longer kicks -- while adding a few yards to his kickoff distance. Otherwise, the Eagles could be watching to see which kickers are released by other teams late in the summer.

“If you get a guy who’s a better kicker than him kicking field goals and a better touchback guy, let me know where he is,” Fipp said. “Every team in the league wants him. There’s not a lot of those guys floating around out there. It’s going to be hard to beat him out, but he’s got to get better at a bunch of things, too.”