If there’s one thing head coach Chip Kelly might want to fix about his Philadelphia Eagles in the next few weeks, it’s the kicking situation.
It’s no secret that Kelly was not enamored with placekicker Alex Henery’s performance last season, especially when he missed a makeable field goal during a 27-24 playoff loss to the New Orleans Saints. Other than drafting a kicker out of Vanderbilt, Kelly did nothing about it. Now that the kicker from Vandy, Carey Spear, who goes by the nickname of Murderleg, does not appear likely to beat out Henery, Kelly still has that problem.
It is not an insolvable one and the irony of all this is that an NFC East rival, the New York Giants, can help the Eagles win the division on their final cut. The Giants have two very good placekickers, Brandon McManus and Josh Brown, and both are locked in a life-and-death struggle for the starting job. An NFL team cannot afford to keep two kickers on the roster, even on the practice squad, and one will have to go by the last cut if not before.
Brown has been one of the league’s best kickers for the past 11 seasons and last year had his greatest year, converting 23 of 26 field goal attempts. McManus kicked a 75-yarder in practice this week and his kickoffs regularly sail beyond the end zone, a spot Henery had trouble reaching last year with the Eagles.
I’m thinking that Tom Coughlin, being the conservative guy he is, will keep the 35-year-old Brown over the promising 23-year-old McManus and this is where Kelly must swoop in and claim McManus when he becomes available on waivers. It would be a homecoming of sorts for McManus, an undrafted free agent out of Temple where he set university records for points scored and field goals made. He made 14 of 17 field-goal tries as a senior, including an overtime winner at UConn. After that game, then head coach Steve Addazio said of McManus, “I thought the best kicker in college football has got to win the game for Temple right now and that was our strategy.”
McManus’ only sin since then was that he has been in the wrong place at the wrong time in the NFL as last year he tried to unseat future Hall of Famer Adam Vinatieri in the Indianapolis Colts’ camp last summer. McManus nailed his only preseason field goal attempt last year, a 50-yarder against the Giants. If McManus beats Brown out, then Brown must be Kelly’s guy.
Either way, Kelly could solve his kicking problem by doing nothing more strenuous than checking the list of final cuts and Giants fans probably would not get a kick out of that bit of irony.