BETHLEHEM, Pa. - For all of the big names the Eagles have brought in, there's a good chance a critical moment in their season will come down to the play of a fourth-round rookie.
Alex Henery, taken in April's draft, is the only kicker in Eagles training camp and is poised to assume all the pressure that comes with booting key field goals for a team with Super Bowl ambitions.
Holding for Henery likely will be another rookie, punter Chas Henry, signed as an undrafted free agent after winning the Ray Guy Award as college football's top punter last year. (And if you don't think punters are important, ask the Giants how they felt about Matt Dodge after New York's rookie punted to DeSean Jackson last season.)
Through a week-and-a-half of training camp, each half of the Henery and Henry tandem has crushed the ball. Henery has hit some long kicks from around the 50-yard mark, and Henry has drawn "oohs" with towering punts.
But when it gets cold, and the crowds are in full throat, and the stakes are high, will they deliver?
The Eagles believe each has the background to inspire confidence.
"They've both been in high-pressure situations, and they have not succumbed to any pressure at this point, and we don't expect they will at any point," said special-teams coordinator Bobby April. "That's the good thing about their background."
So far, he said, "we're very happy we have them."
Henery kicked for four years at Nebraska, in an often-cold stadium for a big-time school in a big-time conference. He set the NCAA record for accuracy, hitting 68 of 76 field goals, including a late 57-yarder as a sophomore that helped beat archrival Colorado.
Henry punted for four years at Florida, including on the 2008 national championship team, playing in games for the national and conference titles. He averaged 43 yards a punt and picked up the field-goal duties for part of his senior year.
At Florida, Henry played in front of crowds that exceeded 90,000. Nebraska's home stadium fits more than 85,000. Each is larger than Lincoln Financial Field.
At training camp, the two have spent all day and night with long snapper Jon Dorenbos, a nine-year veteran who shares a dorm suite with the rookies.
Initially, all three said, there was an adjustment. Dorenbos had worked with veterans David Akers and Sav Rocca for three years. Now, Henry had to get used to Dorenbos' snap, and learn exactly what tilt Henery likes on the ball. They aim to have the snap-hold-kick sequence done in 1.3 seconds or less, a time that assures they can get punts and kicks away without a block.
"We've been consistent on our times, which has been a good thing," Dorenbos said. "Now you've obviously got to take that and translate it into the game."
Henery also has the task of taking over for the much-loved Akers, who kicked for 12 years in Philadelphia, played in more games than any other Eagle, and recently put up a billboard thanking Eagles fans for their support.
"I try not to think too much about that stuff," Henery said. "It's just: Here to do my job."
Pressure, he said, can be overcome by training to kick the same way every time, whether it's an extra point or a 55-yard field goal.
"Kicking's all mental, really," Henery said.
Thin, with bookish looks and wispy facial hair, he doesn't come with the air of a pro athlete. Henry, on the other hand, is tall and thick and looks as if he could play safety in a pinch.
Asked about punting in the NFL, he pointed to his career at Florida.
"We were on national TV every single week," Henry said. "Playing on that kind of stage gets you in the mind-set of how to handle pressure."
The NFL moves faster, but April said kicking and punting should be the same.
"They're not really competing against another opponent that's moved up a notch," April said. "They're really kind of competing against themselves."