Humbled Momah out to capitalize on 2nd chance

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Humbled Momah out to capitalize on 2nd chance

Ifeanyi Momah was humbled. 

After being among the Eagles' final cuts last year, Momah is suiting up for his second attempt with the team with a new outlook.

“You go from having a lot of attention and doing well to not playing so well and you get cut,” Momah said after practice at minicamp last week. “Everybody forgets who you are, so it humbles you real quick.”

Momah was an intriguing prospect last year after the Eagles picked him up in March 2013 as an undrafted free agent. His size -- 6-foot-7 and 239 pounds -- was as huge of a talking point as he is. He towered over defenders and showed promise, but the wide receiver from Boston College didn't stand out enough in training camp to earn a roster spot.

“The one thing I remember [from last year] is being so tired -- getting acclimated to this pace, not only just the NFL level, but this offense,” Momah said.

He said he felt “dead-legged” and didn't have a grasp of Chip Kelly's scheme. 

“I feel like I’m more comfortable going in and out of the routes and just overall receiving,” Momah said. “There’s a big difference from last year. I’m ready.”

Despite the departures of DeSean Jackson and Jason Avant, the numbers are still working against Momah, who left minicamp as one of 13 wideouts on the roster. Last year, the Eagles finished the season with six wide receivers on the roster. Veterans Jeremy Maclin and Riley Cooper and draft picks Jordan Matthews and Josh Huff are likely locks for four of those spots. Momah's top competition comes from versatile veteran Brad Smith, a special teams standout who was signed during last season, and Arrelious Benn, a second-round pick of the Buccaneers in 2010 whom the Eagles acquired via trade but missed last season with a torn ACL.

That said, the Eagles remain curious about Momah's upside. After cutting him last year, they told him they wanted him to return. He'd drawn interest from the Patriots and Steelers -- "The Steelers were always on me," he said -- but felt the Eagles were the best fit.

“They told me they wanted me here, but because they felt I wasn’t ready yet, they wanted to keep me around," he said.

"Nothing about Pittsburgh that wasn’t a fit. It was just I’m comfortable as a receiver here with the offense and also with the coaches."

So while he waited to return for another shot with the Eagles, Momah helped open a youth football camp in Long Island, where he's from, with friend James Brady, a quarterback from the University of New Hampshire. Brady played for Kelly at UNH, and working with him helped Momah improve.

"He knows his offense," Momah said of Brady. "Some days we go in and I’ll be running routes with him, cause he’s my quarterback, and he'll just throw up a sign and I'll know what it is and we’re running. It helps a lot."

As does something else. Like Cooper did last year, Momah has also discovered how to best use his most valuable asset: his physique.

“Last year I was playing down, as just a regular receiver, but now I’m trying to use my size,” Momah said. “If anybody’s around me, it doesn’t matter -- I’m the biggest guy out there.

“It’s kind of like basketball -- box them out, take the ball and stay up and score.”

Momah's attitude toward training camp has changed too. He admitted last year he sometimes tried to “just get through it." Now, he’s “out [there] to get better.”

“It’s a professional league,” Momah said. “They’re going to tell you what to do and if you don’t take it, listen and try to do it, then you’re going to get cut.”

Momah’s improved performance this time hasn’t gone unnoticed by the coaches either.

"I think he feels more comfortable here. There's not a newness in terms of, 'This is not my first time doing this, and what does this look like, where am I supposed to be, how does that work?'" Kelly said. "We've seen a marked improvement from last year to this year."

During minicamp last Wednesday, Momah made a few good catches during drills that showcased the advantages of his size, even making an attempt to leap over a defender at an errant throw that sailed too high.

“I sat back a lot last year at home, thinking of all the things I could have done and all the things they told me to do that I didn’t,” he said. “I heard a couple of guys got re-signed and I was thinking to myself, ‘Why didn’t I get re-signed?’”

No more sitting back this time around.

“I’m just excited for the opportunity,” Momah said. “I’m ready to take advantage of it and make the team this year.”

Eagles select WR Shelton Gibson with 5th-round pick

Eagles select WR Shelton Gibson with 5th-round pick

The Eagles add speed on the outside by drafting West Virginia receiver Shelton Gibson in the 5th round (166 overall).

Gibson (5-foot-11, 191 pounds) could be a deep threat the Eagles desperately need. He totaled 80 catches and 1,838 yards (23.1 yards per catch average) in his last two seasons for the Mountaineers.

Before selecting Gibson, the Birds traded back twice. First, the Eagles traded the 155th pick to the Titans for the 164th pick and the 214th pick. Next, as the Eagles were on the clock for the 164th pick, they traded back two spots with Dolphins, to obtain the 166th and 184th picks while giving away picks 164 and 194.

Gibson had a less than stellar performance at the NFL Combine in early March, running a 4.5 in the 40-yard-dash despite his deep threat reputation. He redeemed himself at his Pro Day, however, by reportedly running a 4.39 in the 40.

Gibson also adds value on special teams, as he returned a 100-yard kickoff for a touchdown during his sophomore year and racked up 633 return yards in his junior season.

(More to come)

Eagles select RB Donnel Pumphrey with 2nd 4th-round pick

Eagles select RB Donnel Pumphrey with 2nd 4th-round pick

The Darren Sproles comparison is natural, and it's one Donnel Pumphrey is going to hear a lot after the Eagles took the San Diego State running back in the fourth round, 132nd overall.

So what similarities and differences are there between the two running backs?

"He's definitely bigger than me," Pumphrey (see bio) said with a laugh.

Considering Sproles is 5-foot-6, 180 pounds, that is pretty funny.

"He's going to be a Hall of Famer," Pumphrey said. "I feel like we're (I'm) very versatile, do stuff out of the backfield, just like he does.

"(The comparison) means the world to me. I watched guys like him when he played for the Chargers.

"I look forward to building a relationship and looking up to him and getting different pointers on how I can get better each day. I'm excited."

Pumphrey? He stands 5-foot-8, 175 pounds, but he did a lot of the same things on the college level that the electrifying Sproles has done in the NFL.
 
Pumphrey piled up an NCAA-record 6,405 rushing yards in four years at San Diego State, breaking the Division I rushing record of 6,397 yards set by Overbook High graduate Ron Dayne.

Pumphrey, 10th in the Heisman Trophy balloting this past year, surpassed 1,600 yards and 17 touchdown runs in each of his last three seasons, including a Division-I best 2,133 yards last year -- 10th-most in Division I history.

He averaged 6.0 yards per carry in his career to go with 99 catches for 1,039 yards and finished with 67 total TDs, including five receiving.

Pumphrey also finished his career ranked fifth in Division I history with 7,515 all-purpose yards, eighth with 67 touchdowns and ninth with 62 rushing touchdowns.

He's the only player in NCAA history with 5,000 rushing yards and 1,000 receiving yards.

Sproles has said the 2017 season, his 13th, will be his final NFL season. He's averaged 4.9 yards per carry with 525 receptions and nine return touchdowns in a brilliant career, including the last three with the Eagles.

The Eagles moved up seven spots in the fourth round to draft Pumphrey, shipping their second fourth-round pick, No. 139, and their seventh-round pick, No. 230, to move up to No. 132.

Despite his lack of size, Pumphrey has never been hurt and averaged 21 ½ touches per game for the duration of his college career.

"I just try to make guys miss, and when it's time to get down I get down," Pumphrey said.

"I don’t think about injuries or anything like that, I just play football to play it. I know injuries come with the game, but I just give my all every time I step on the field. I haven't gotten hurt, and it's been a blessing."

The Eagles are unsettled at running back, with Ryan Mathews in limbo and only 2016 fifth-round draft pick Wendell Smallwood and Sproles also in the mix.

In Pumphrey, the Eagles get a back who survived a staggering 1,158 touches in college.

During the last four years, he had more than 200 more carries than any running back in Division 1 -- 1,059. Justin Jackson of Northwestern was second with 855.

And he never missed a game.

"I've been running the ball since I was about 6 years old and it hasn't taken a toll on me," Pumphrey said.

"Offensive line does a great job getting me to the next level where I'm not able to really take on big hits. I'm just ready to be an Eagle and show everybody what I'm about."

Pumphrey is the first San Diego State player the Eagles have taken since linebacker Matt McCoy in the second round in 2005.

The fourth round is the highest the Eagles have taken a running back in seven years since they drafted all-time franchise rushing leader LeSean McCoy in 2009.

The last running back they selected in the fourth round was Correll Buckhalter out of Nebraska back in 2001.

Buckhalter's former teammate, Duce Staley, is now the Eagles' running backs coach and is a big fan of Pumphrey.

"I built a relationship with Duce Staley at the combine," he said. "He said he loves the way I played. I'm just excited to learn the different aspects of the game from him.

"I can't wait to … learn from guys like Ryan Mathews, Darren Sproles and just learn from all the coaches and just doing what I have to do to get better each day," he said.

"I'm ready to do whatever it takes to show that I can earn a role on the team."