Eagles receiver Momah turning heads at camp

Eagles receiver Ifeanyi Momah has put himself in position to make the roster, according to coach Chip Kelly.
Eagles receiver Ifeanyi Momah has put himself in position to make the roster, according to coach Chip Kelly. (MICHAEL BRYANT / Staff Photographer)
Posted: August 03, 2014

Nick Foles scanned the field during Friday's training camp practice and saw Ifeanyi Momah running along the left side with the first-team offense. There are few wide receivers in the NFL with whom the 6-foot-6 Foles can look eye-to-eye, but Momah is one of them.

Momah's 6-7, 239-pound frame created a buzz among Eagles fans when the team signed him in March 2013. But Momah, who had not played football in nearly two years upon signing because of a knee injury, proved to be a project.

Even when he ascended on the depth chart when the wide receivers ranks thinned last summer, it was clear that Momah still had development ahead of him to be considered for an NFL roster. He caught only three passes in the preseason and was not even kept on the practice squad.

This year is different. And when more injuries beset the wide receivers and Momah took snaps with the starters on Friday, he looked like he belonged more than he did one year ago.

"I would tell myself there was no rust [last year], but it's inevitable," Momah said. "I sat out two years, wasn't around football. I think it's harder for me to adapt. But this year, with this experience, I'm more confident. I'm able to adapt to the offense, and run my routes, crisper."

The coaching staff has noticed. Momah still must beat the odds to make the roster, but he was encouraged while taking snaps with the starting unit. Riley Cooper and Jeff Maehl both wore boots on their right foot because of injury, and Jeremy Maclin sat out a few team drills for unknown reasons. So Momah, Arrelious Benn, and Brad Smith all played with the top group.

"He's ahead of where he was last year," coach Chip Kelly said. "I think it's just a better understanding of what's going on."

Momah's size stands out. He is the tallest wide receiver in the NFL and the second heaviest. Wide receiver Bob Bicknell clocked Momah last year running a 40-yard dash in 4.37 seconds, so there is speed that intrigues the Eagles. That speed was not apparent on the field last season, when getting in and out of breaks appeared an issue.

Bicknell did not even know where Momah spent the autumn months, but his eyes opened upon Momah's return.

Momah said Friday that he connected with a quarterback and wide receivers coach, working out near his New York home. The quarterback was James Brady, a former New Hampshire passer who arrived at UNH once Kelly left. Brady had familiarity with Kelly's offense, which Momah said helped him hone in on the desired routes.

Momah re-signed with the Eagles in January. He had been fighting the depth chart before his best opportunity on Friday, and he felt he did a "decent job."

"He looks smoother out there," offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur said. "He's made some plays down the field and used his size. He's actually had a really, really good camp."

Unless there are major injuries, the Eagles are sure to keep Maclin, Cooper, Jordan Matthews, and Josh Huff on the active roster. Smith is also likely to make the team. Then the question is whether the Eagles keep five or six receivers.

Maehl has experience playing for Kelly, and Benn has intriguing talent despite a track record of injuries. There are other young players and rookies who are competing for the job, too, and the preseason is often a time for separation. Momah did not shine one year ago, but he appears better positioned this summer.

"Obviously, we could notice an improvement with him when we saw [him] during the spring, during the offseason program, and I think he's done the same thing here," Kelly said. "So he's put himself in position to compete for a job."


zberman@phillynews.com

@ZBerm

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