Kickers don’t often garner much attention, unless they’re missing a game-winning field goal or point after, but being able to consistently rely on the position is a nicety not all teams are afforded. The Eagles are headed into their sixth season without David Akers and have yet to replace him with the next franchise kicker.
The Eagles were very fortunate to have had the same kicker to rely on for 12 years, from 1999-2010. Few positions have the kind of longevity that the kicker does, but that doesn’t mean there are a bunch of extras lying around. Teams who find a player they can retain for a decade-plus, rarely give up their gem so easily — Sebastian Janikowski (OAK - 17 years), Stephen Gostkowski (NE - 11 years) and Adam Vinatieri (IND - 11 years; NE - 10 years) are just a few examples of current lifers.
During his 12 seasons with the Eagles, Akers spent 11 as the starter, scoring 1,323 total points and only missing 4-of-188 games in that time. His time with the Eagles made up 75% of the kicker’s career — one that started in Washington, and ended with two seasons in San Francisco and his last in Detroit.
The Akers-era ended in dramatic fashion when the kicker missed two crucial field goals in the team’s playoff loss to Green Bay in Jan. 2011. At 41 and 34 yards out, these kicks should have been routine for the veteran, whose career long at the time was 57 yards, but his mind was elsewhere as it was later announced his daughter had been diagnosed with brain cancer. The justifiable reasoning behind his out-of-character misses didn’t seem to matter, as his fate was sealed — he had let down his team and would be headed elsewhere in the offseason.
Following the 2010 season, Akers was ranked the 17th most accurate kicker in NFL history. He had always been someone Eagles fans could count on when the offense struggled in the red zone -- so, a lot. Dismissing him came quick, but replacing him hasn’t happened in the six years since he left.
The heir-apparent to Akers role was a fourth-round pick (No. 120 overall) for the Eagles in the 2011 NFL Draft out of Nebraska, Alex Henery. In his three seasons with the team, Henerey missed only one point after and had a higher field goal accuracy his first year (88.9%) than Akers did in his 12 seasons (career high 88.2%).
It’s not often teams use draft picks on kickers, but the Eagles knew they needed someone to replace Akers, and the rookie made the front office look good after setting a new NFL record for accuracy by a rookie kicker, and kicking a career-best 51-yard field goal in a Week 16 win over the Cowboys.
He continued setting records his second year in the league, this time taking a franchise record with 18 consecutive field goals and surpassing it to 22. Despite two incredible years, and fine third one, Henery lost his starting role to Cody Parkey and the former draft pick made his way to Detroit in 2014 — this would be the last move of his career when he was dropped in October by the Lions after missing five field goals in one game.
With a preseason performance good enough to out a former fourth-round draft pick, the undrafted rookie — who was traded by the Colts — was the new starter for the Eagles. He set an NFL scoring record by a rookie kicker -- 150 points — and was named a first alternative for the 2015 Pro Bowl -- which he got to play in as a replacement for Stephen Gostkowski.
Despite a stellar start, Parkey had a lingering groin injury that put him on the IR list in late September, where he stayed for remainder of the 2015 season. The team brought in Caleb Sturgis as his replacement, and ended up parting ways with Parkey just ahead of the 2016 season.
Here we go again.
Sturgis was a fifth round pick in 2013 by the Miami Dolphins, before being waived ahead of the 2015 regular season. After filling in for Parkey the remainder of the 2015 season, and winning the 2016 offseason batter, he has been named the starter for the Eagles and team signed him to a one-year extension through 2017, worth just over $1 million with incentive bonuses.
The extension means this isn't exactly a lame-duck season for Sturgis, but with the way Howie Roseman has cleaned house of Chip Kelly players, I’d be surprised if Sturgis was the longterm answer to the kicking position in Philadelphia. Missing the first field goal of the regular season? Not the best start.
There are currently five college kickers graded out high enough to be a potential draft pick in Rounds 5-7. It could be in the Eagles best interest to start fresh with a young rookie to keep for the next decade, versus dipping back into the waiver wire for another team’s leftovers.
|Andy Phillips||Utah||5'10||205||3 seasons at 80%-plus accuracy|
|Adam Griffith||Alabama||6'1||204||Was 23-of-32 in 2015, 55-yard long|
|Jake Elliott||Memphis||5'10||176||82% accurancy in 2015, and 100% PA accuracy in college|
|Josh Lambert||W. Virginia||6'3||200||Was 21-of-28 in 2015, 51-yard long|
|Tyler Rausa||Boise State||6'1||189||Was 25-of-30 in 2015, career long 51-yard FG|
The Eagles will need to evaluate some of the younger talent in order to see toward the future.