The Eagles started the summer with what was supposed to be a kicking competition after Alex Henery's inconsistent 2013 season, but it quickly became apparent that he was the best kicker in Eagles camp. Even with undrafted free agent Carey Spear ostensibly a threat to win the job, the Eagles used Henery exclusively during the first two preseason games.
Unless the Eagles find a better option after the preseason, Henery will be their kicker in 2014. Coach Chip Kelly came to Henery's defense Sunday, two days after Henery missed a 47-yard field-goal on his first attempt of the preseason.
Kelly said Henery missed only two kicks in competitive situations during training camp. He added that Henery was 5 for 5 from 50 yards and beyond, and 8 for 8 in 45-to-49-yard situations.
"He did miss one in the game," Kelly said. "But, I mean . . . we're not going to throw another guy out there. Alex has definitely outkicked Carey so far in practice."
The Eagles could have invested in a kicker in free agency or the draft, but they could not find an option that they viewed as a clear upgrade over Henery.
Henery converted just 82.1 percent of his field goals last season after hitting on 87.9 percent during his first two seasons, which were two of the four most accurate years in Eagles history.
He kicked touchbacks on 41.1 percent of his kickoffs in 2013. There were only 11 kickers in the NFL with both a better field-goal percentage and touchback percentage than Henery.
Of course, percentages are not always the best indicator of a kicker's prowess. Henery attempted just two field goals beyond 50 yards last season - tied for the fewest of any kicker who spent an entire season with the team. He was among the NFL leaders from within 40 yards.
After Henery missed the field goal Friday, Kelly made it clear that "you've got to make 47-yarders in this league." The coach said he was "confident in Alex, but again, we've got to convert in games, too."
Henery said Sunday that he "hit a little ground" on the field goal. The kick sailed wide right and was not even close to going through the uprights.
"Disappointed in myself just because I've been hitting the ball so good," Henery said. "Got one bad, and that was the only one I got."
Even though that was Henery's lone field-goal attempt in games, he is 9 for 9 on 33-yard extra points. Those simulate field goals more than the regular extra points, which are 20-yard attempts.
"It gives you a little more toughness, I guess you can say," Henery said. "Especially in Chicago, where the field was pretty deep. I only get one [field goal] so far, but [extra points] were more like real field goals."
Henery cited the same statistics as Kelly, pointing to only two missed field goals in competitive situations during training camp. With Spear missing kicks in practice, Kelly decided that Henery would get all the work in games.
"We need to get Alex as much work as he can possibly get," Kelly said. "It's clear in our mind that Alex is number one over Carey."
Henery did not have competition in last summer's camp. General manager Howie Roseman said after the season that the Eagles would bring in a player to compete with Henery.
"It definitely makes you work a little harder," Henery said. "If he has a good day kicking and I don't, it just makes you analyze things and get better."
Those days have not come often, and Henery will likely keep his locker. The 2011 fourth-round pick that the Eagles invested in Henery remains the highest for any kicker since 2006.
The final two preseason games could keep the Eagles contented in their kicker or force them to make a move.
"Even though I was [ticked off] that I missed, it's a lot more how you respond," Henery said. "You don't let situations like that tear you down. That's where I try to be even keel. I get through those things, because they happen to the best of you."