Cody Parkey vs Alex Henery
What a difference a year makes. After Chip Kelly's first preseason, we still had so many questions and concerns as to how this team would look, play, and battle in Kelly's first season as the Eagles head coach.
Now heading into his second regular season, though some may still have reservations about Nick Foles, the offense sans DeSean Jackson, and of course the defense, it appears the most pressing matter, is who will Kelly name as his starting kicker?
In last nights final preseason game against the Jets, rookie kicker Cody Parkey was impressive. He hit all three of his field goals, including kicks from 53 and 54 yards, with room to spare. He displayed a much stronger leg then Alex Henery, as he booted the ball deep into the end zone, causing multiple touch backs. In only his second game as an Eagle, after being traded last week from the Indianapolis Colts for running back David Fluellen, Parkey certainly gave Kelly and his coaching staff a lot to think about, as this team looks to set there 53-man roster by Saturday.
Who should get the job? Has Parkey done enough to earn it? Has Henery done enough to lose it?
If you start to compare both kickers' resumes, its not hard to still want to keep Alex Henery's atop the pile. A fourth round pick out of Nebraska in 2011, Henery set a new NFL record for field goal accuracy by a rookie kicker. In his second year, he set a franchise record of 18, and then 22 consecutive made field goals. In his three year career, Henery has converted 74-of-86 field goals (86 percent), including 23 of 28 in 2013. One of his five misses last season was a costly one however, a 48-yarder in the Eagles 28-26 loss to the New Orleans Saints in 2013 NFC Wild Card game. Since then, Henery has missed a 47-yarder in preseason against New England, and again with 31-yarder against the Pittsburgh Steelers. He struggles with kicking touchbacks, and his confidence seems to be fading faster then his hairline (not a burn, just an observation).
Enter Cody Parkey, an undrafted rookie out of Auburn, who's resume is far less extensive. Signed by the Colts, Parkey went two for two in field goal attempts, but was never going to dethrone All-Pro kicker Adam Vinatieri. A three starter, Parkey led the nation in his senior year with 69 toucbacks, but converted just 15-of-21 field goals (71.4 percent). Having kicked in the SEC, Parkey is used to playing in big games, on a regular basis, in front of enormous crowds. Much like Henery during his time in Nebraska and the crowds that would pack Memorial Stadium, Parkey is also used to kicking in front of eighty-seven thousand plus fans on any given Saturday at Jordan-Hare Stadium. He has experience kicking in nationally televised games, but in the biggest game of his young career, Parkey went one for two missing a 33-yard chip shot in last years BCS National Championship game.
There is something to be said though, about a young kicker who embraced the competition, and rose to the occasion knowing his future was on the line. Was it enough to supplant Alex Henery? Can he continue to do that on a bigger stage, with higher stakes? WIll Chip Kelly hinge a promising season on an unproven rookie kicker? Would they still consider bringing in another veteran? There is no question that Parkey has the bigger leg and perhaps the bigger upside, but is that a gamble that Kelly is willing to take? These are all questions that Chip Kelly and his staff will continue to mull over until they have to hand in their 53-man roster tomorrow, and until then, we'll be asking the same questions ourselves!