Philadelphia Eagles

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-Dolphins joint practice Day 2 observations: Wentz rebounds from rough start

Eagles-Dolphins joint practice Day 2 observations: Wentz rebounds from rough start

The Eagles held their second and final joint practice against the Dolphins on Tuesday morning. 

For the Eagles, it was an extremely hot practice, one of their hottest of the summer. For the Dolphins, it was a breezy morning away from the Southern Florida heat. 

These two teams got a lot of work in over the last two days and somehow avoided scuffles, which normally seem to happen during these joint practices. The closest anyone got was on Monday, when Malcolm Jenkins and Kenny Stills jawed a little bit. A lot of Kumbaya over the last couple days. 

Let's hop into observations: 

1. *Clears throat* injuries: Brandon Graham (elbow) and Jordan Hicks (quad) both missed Tuesday's practice after leaving early the day before. Pederson said both players are "day to day." 

Nick Foles (elbow) was held out of practice, but Pederson claimed it was just "precautionary." Foles has been dealing with that elbow injury all training camp and said he isn't going to play Thursday. 

Defensive end Vinny Curry left Tuesday's practice early with cramps. He'll be fine. 

2. The beginning of practice was a little bit of a struggle for Carson Wentz, who overthrew David Watford and Marcus Johnson in 7-on-7s to start his day. Overthrows were a bit of a recurring problem for Wentz on this day. 

But he rebounded nicely. After the Eagles' defense stopped the Dolphins in a situational period, Wentz drove his unit down the field to set up a field goal opportunity. Wentz wasn't as good on Tuesday as he was the day before, but he was OK. 

That one period was fun. The first units went up against each other on one field with everyone watching. The Dolphins' drive sputtered early before the Eagles ended their drive on a field goal. 

3. Jay Cutler looked pretty darn good once the teams went into 11-on-11 drills. He threw a beautiful deep ball to Kenny Stills for a touchdown and then came back to hit Anthony Fasano for another deep ball with Nigel Bradham in coverage. Cutler had a good couple days of practice. 

4. Marcus Johnson had the play of the day. Wentz overthrew him during 7-on-7s, but Johnson somehow tipped the ball up to himself and snagged it just before it hit the ground. He has a great shot of making the roster. 

5. Alshon Jeffery had another active day, especially when the Eagles got into the red zone. Wentz failed to connect with his big target for touchdowns, but it's clear he wants to work on that connection. On the first fade, Jeffery was mugged by Dolphins corner Xavien Howard. For some reason, the ref right on the play didn't throw a flag. Not sure why they were even out there if they missed that one. On the next fade to Jeffery, Wentz simply overthrew him. 

6. Trey Burton made another nice one-handed catch. It wasn't nearly as spectacular as one he made earlier this summer, but this one clearly wasn't luck. For the second time this summer, he used his left hand to snag a ball one-handed. For the record, Burton is right-handed ... at least, that's the hand he throws with. 

7. To start Tuesday's practice, Chris Long filled in at left defensive end for Graham. On Monday, when Graham left early, Derek Barnett was getting those reps. Later on Tuesday, when Curry left, Long stayed on the left side and Barnett filled in at right. 

Without Hicks, Najee Goode took first-team reps at the MIKE. Joe Walker took them on Monday when Hicks and Goode were out of practice. 

8. Matt McGloin has struggled so much over the last few weeks, it has become really tough to evaluate the players who are on the field with him. But on Tuesday, one of his poor passes actually led to Mack Hollins making a great catch during 7-on-7s. Hollins has been quiet recently, but he made a few nice grabs Tuesday. 

9. Wendell Smallwood has looked explosive since coming back from his hamstring injury. Pederson said LeGarrette Blount will have a big role with the team (see story), but don't be surprised to see Smallwood get a lot of carries this season. He's probably the Eagles' best overall running back. 

10. Jaylen Watkins has had a quiet camp and seems to have an uphill battle to make the 53-man roster, but he had a nice day against the Dolphins. He picked off a Matt Moore pass in the corner of the end zone and celebrated by tossing it up 30 feet in the air. The Eagles have played Watkins at safety, cornerback and even in the nickel corner spot this training camp, but they just probably don't have a job for him. 

Stupid Observation of the Day: For the second straight day, former backup linebacker Stephen Tulloch was at practice. Afterward, I needed to do a double-take when I saw him in the locker room with the other linebackers. The Eagles could probably use him this season, but he's still retired. 

Eagles notes, quotes and tidbits: Pederson calls Blount 'a beast of a runner'

Eagles notes, quotes and tidbits: Pederson calls Blount 'a beast of a runner'

There's been plenty of speculation in recent days that LeGarrette Blount's roster spot with the Eagles isn't guaranteed. 

Head coach Doug Pederson did his part on Tuesday to try to end that speculation. 

"The guy's a beast of a runner," Pederson said. "I don't know what else to tell you -- 18 touchdowns, 15 in the red zone last year. That's the production you saw yesterday, the style of running he can do. ... I'm excited he's here and he's going to be a big part of our offense."

During the first two preseason games this summer, Blount simply hasn't looked good. He has nine carries for 17 yards. 

But, as he has in the past, Pederson made it a point to remind everyone that the Eagles haven't been game-planning for these preseason games. That means the team is less concerned about which plays will work against the defense and more concerned about simply executing regardless of matchups; hence the stretch runs with a 250-pound running back. That could be a reason Blount has looked so ineffective thus far. 

"We're trying to execute our plays," Pederson said. "As coaches, we might be doing players injustice by putting them in bad situations; I'm just going to be honest with you."

Third time's a charm
The Eagles will face off against the Dolphins in the third preseason game on Thursday night at the Linc. Historically, the third preseason game is where starters play at least a half of football and it's normally the closest thing to a dress rehearsal for the season. 

Pederson on Tuesday said he didn't have a plan in place for how long the starters will play, but didn't say anything to make it seem like he'll go with an unusual plan. That means plenty of work for Wentz and the first-team offense. 

It's clear that Pederson wants his offense to clean up some issues that plagued them against the Bills, namely penalties, turnovers and execution. 

"I think the first unit overall, just better execution," Pederson said when asked what he wanted to see from Wentz. "We need to start a little bit better, start the game a little bit better. You'd love to see points, obviously, and maybe score a couple of times."

No issues with Smallwood
There has been plenty of speculation about Blount's role with the team, but there's also been plenty about Wendell Smallwood's too. 

Smallwood missed considerable time this training camp with a hamstring injury, while undrafted rookie Corey Clement has performed well. But it still seems very unlikely Clement has a chance to snag Smallwood's roster spot. Smallwood might be the Eagles' best all-around running back. 

Pederson doesn't even think this game is super important for Smallwood after missing time.  

"Not really, not really," Pederson said. "We saw a lot from him last year and what he can do. He did an outstanding job through the spring and now the summer. He bounced back again from injury. He's been good here lately, so I'm comfortable with where he's at. Still want to play him, still want to get him banging around a little bit but happy where he's at."