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.”

Stay or Go Part 8: Ryan Mathews to Steven Means

Stay or Go Part 8: Ryan Mathews to Steven Means

In the eighth of our 12-part offseason series examining the future of the Eagles, Reuben Frank and Dave Zangaro give their opinions on who will be and who won't be on the roster in 2017. We go alphabetically — Part 8 is Mathews to Means.

Ryan Mathews
Cap hit: $5M

Roob: The Eagles have to get better, younger, faster, healthier, more durable and more reliable at running back. I love the way Mathews runs when he’s healthy. The guy runs hard and he runs physical and he's aggressive. Then he always gets hurt. Mathews actually has the third-highest per-carry average among running backs in Eagles history, but they just can’t rely on him anymore. How can you count on a running back who misses significant time every year? Time to move on. Factor in the cap savings — $4 million if the Eagles release him — and it’s a no-brainer.

Verdict: GOES

Dave: The Eagles can save $4 million in cap room to cut the running back who needed serious neck surgery after his season was ended in the Giants' game. Mathews played pretty well in his two seasons with the Eagles, but, as has been the case during his career, health was an issue. And now he’s 29 and will turn 30 early into next season. Time to move on. 

Verdict: GOES

Jordan Matthews
Cap hit: $1.57M

Roob: Matthews is going into Year 4 and I’d still like to see him make a jump and become a 1,200-yard type of receiver. Maybe it will happen with another year under his belt with Carson Wentz. Matthews has the 11th-most catches in NFL history by a player in his first three seasons — 225, or 75 per year — but his 2,673 yards are 50th most. Matthews is as hard a worker and as committed a player as you’ll see. He'll get the most out of his ability. I’d just like to see him take his game up one more level, and I think he will.

Verdict: STAYS

Dave: It’s a shame the Eagles don’t have any legitimate threats at their outside receiver positions, because if they did, so much of the burden wouldn’t fall on Matthews. No, he’s not a great receiver, but he’s a very good one who has been solid in his first three years in the league. In his first three seasons, Matthews has 225 catches for 2,673 yards and 19 touchdowns. There have been just 10 receivers in the league to put up those numbers or better: Antonio Brown, Julio Jones, Demaryius Thomas, Odell Beckham Jr., DeAndre Hopkins, Emmanuel Sanders, Doug Baldwin, Mike Evans, Randall Cobb and Brandon Marshall. Matthews isn’t going anywhere and it’s time to think about an extension. 

Verdict: STAYS

Alex McCalister
Cap hit: $557K

Roob: McCalister, a seventh-round defensive end, spent the year on injured reserve but considering the Eagles’ lack of pass-rush potency, he’ll definitely get a look this summer. McCalister had 17½ sacks at Florida, so he’s got that going for him. Still a long shot.

Verdict: GOES

Dave: This is tough because McCalister was a seventh-round draft pick who was placed on IR with a injury that didn’t appear to be serious. The last year was a redshirt season for the defensive end who has some pass-rush ability but needed to work on packing more muscle onto his frame. Haven’t seen enough to think he sticks. 

Verdict: GOES

Leodis McKelvin
Cap hit: $3.45M

Roob: The Eagles have to do better than McKelvin. He made a few plays, gave up a lot more, and as far as I’m concerned, the Eagles should hang onto Jalen Mills and get rid of all their other corners. Not to mention the $3.2 million in cap savings the Eagles would gain if McKelvin is released. See ya.

Verdict: GOES

Dave: The Eagles can save $3.2 million by cutting McKelvin, which will probably happen. If it doesn’t, it’ll be because the Eagles think his lingering hamstring issue played a big role in his play and because defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz goes to bat for him. Ultimately, I think McKelvin’s days in Philly are over. 

Verdict: GOES

Rodney McLeod
Cap hit: $5.6M

Roob: McLeod played really well most of the season, tailed off the last few weeks, and goes into next year a question mark because of that inconsistency. When he’s right, McLeod is a sure tackler, willing run supporter, big hitter and capable in coverage. But those last few weeks raised some eyebrows. There were times you just wondered what he was doing out there. If the Eagles can have the first-10-games McLeod for a full season, they’re fine. But he has to be consistent. He’ll be here through 2017 but after that is anybody’s guess. Another mixed year will likely spell the end here for McLeod.

Verdict: STAYS

Dave: There were a few plays that showed questionable effort from McLeod this season, which was shocking based on his past. He was an undrafted rookie who worked his way into the league and into a contract with the Eagles. This ended up being a pretty good signing; he had a nice season. He’s under contract through 2020 and the Eagles hope he hasn’t yet fulfilled his potential. He and Malcolm Jenkins should only get better after more time playing together. 

Verdict: STAYS

Steven Means
Cap hit: $690K

Roob: Means, a veteran journeyman defensive end, played only 36 snaps all year. He did pick up one sack against the Vikings, but as far as his future? Most likely, he won’t be back.

Verdict: GOES

Dave: Means did everything in his power last training camp to make the 2016 roster. He flashed every day and in the preseason games. But in 2016, he didn’t get to play very much and was clearly buried on the depth chart behind Connor Barwin, Brandon Graham, Vinny Curry and Marcus Smith. The Eagles need to upgrade at the defensive end spot, which might be bad news for Means if more bodies come in. But for now, he's a good depth piece. 

Verdict: STAYS

It's official: Eagles reach terms with WRs coach Mike Groh

It's official: Eagles reach terms with WRs coach Mike Groh

The Eagles' only vacant coaching position has been filled.

On Monday afternoon the team announced that it had reached terms with Mike Groh to be the new receivers coach.

“We are excited to add Mike Groh to our coaching staff," Eagles head coach Doug Pederson said in a release from the team. "Mike brings with him a vast array of experience coaching wide receivers in the NFL and college. Over his career, he has demonstrated a great ability as a teacher and as a motivator and we look forward to him getting started in Philadelphia.” 

Earlier this month, after the receivers had a disappointing season, the team fired first-year receivers coach Greg Lewis and have been searching for his replacement. In addition to interviewing Groh, the team also interviewed Bills receivers coach Sanjay Lal.

While Lewis was an NFL position coach for the first time in 2016, Groh has a little more experience at the NFL level. Groh, 45, spent 2016 with the Rams as their receivers coach and passing game coordinator after three years with the Chicago Bears as their receivers coach.

Lewis was the only position coached fired after Pederson's first NFL season. The team finished 7-9 after a 3-0 start.

Groh was seemingly available because of the head coaching change in Los Angeles.

Before he made it to the NFL as a receivers coach with the Bears, Groh had a long coaching career at the college level. He rose to the level of offensive coordinator at Virginia under his father Al, who was the Cavaliers' long-time head coach.

Mike Groh's first coaching job came with the Jets in 2000, when his father had a one-year stint as their head coach.

Mike Groh was once a quarterback at Virginia before his father ever coached there.

While the Eagles' receivers wildly underperformed in 2016, Groh has coached two of the top free agents at the position: Alshon Jeffery and Kenny Britt.

The Eagles' coaching staff will be in Mobile, Alabama, this week to get a closer look at some top draft prospects, among them will be several talented receivers.