New, improved Momah back to win a spot with Eagles

YONG KIM / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Ifeanyi Momah has benefited from teammates' injuries to get reps with the first-team offense.
YONG KIM / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Ifeanyi Momah has benefited from teammates' injuries to get reps with the first-team offense.
Posted: August 14, 2014

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. - Athletes are fueled by failure. They remember the catches they didn't make, the home runs they didn't hit, the races they didn't win, the shots that didn't go in, and use it as motivation.

As he prepared for this week's joint practices with the Patriots, Eagles wide receiver Ifeanyi Momah watched over and over the tape of last year's workouts with the Pats.

Momah didn't play well in those practices, and eventually was released. This time around, he was determined to make a better impression. And he did.

"I've gone back and looked at the tape of the one-on-ones with the Patriots last year," he said. "I looked terrible.

"In the one-on-ones, I didn't catch a single pass. Looking back at that film, it would get me upset. I made sure today when I came out for the one-on-ones, I tried to be able to beat the DBs who were covering me.

"I caught every pass that came to me. So, while it made my stomach cringe to watch [the video from last year], it was a good learning experience as far as seeing how far I've come since last year. And also see that there is no roof. I can keep getting better each day."

A year ago, Momah was the longest of longshots to make the Eagles' roster as an undrafted free agent. He was an intriguing 6-7, 239-pounder with 4.39 straight-line speed. But he hadn't played football in almost 2 years because of a knee injury early in his final season at Boston College, and he was so, so raw. He couldn't get off the line of scrimmage against press coverage, and he was painfully slow getting in and out of his breaks.

A year later, Momah has made tremendous improvement. He no longer is the longest of longshots. A spot on the Eagles' season-opening roster isn't a certainty, but it's not out of reach, either.

Because of injuries to some of the team's other wide receivers, Momah has spent much of training camp getting valuable first-team reps with the offense. And he's used those reps to impress the Eagles' coaching staff.

"He's made a lot of progress," offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur said. "I think he's one of the guys, especially in the receiving corps, that's made the most improvement since he kind of came on the scene last year.

"He's steadily improving. He's more and more comfortable with what we're trying to do offensively, and he's found a way to make some plays."

The Eagles will keep five or six wide receivers on their season-opening roster. Riley Cooper, Jeremy Maclin and rookies Jordan Matthews and Josh Huff have four spots locked up. Brad Smith appears to be safe as the fifth wideout.

That leaves one roster spot up for grabs. The three candidates battling for it are Jeff Maehl, who played in 16 games last season, ACL comeback kid Arrelious Benn, and Momah.

With Cooper not participating in team work yesterday as he continues to recover from a foot/ankle injury he suffered more than 2 weeks ago, Momah took most of the first-team reps against the Patriots.

"I know what I'm doing now and feel comfortable running routes, especially in this offense," he said. "The thing is, with that comfortability comes trust from the coaches. They believe in me. They're keeping me with the first team. So I just need to keep taking advantage of these reps and get better and show them I can play on Sundays.

"I have to ignore the circumstances and act like it's on purpose [that he's getting first-team reps], so that I can get better with each snap. And it's been helping me. I've been going out there full-speed and running my routes good and catching the ball and making plays.

"I've got to keep doing that, and doing it more often. There are a couple of plays I leave out on the field every now and again. I have to learn from that and be more consistent."

Momah also needs to convince head coach Chip Kelly and special-teams coach Dave Fipp he can make a positive contribution on special teams.

A team's sixth wideout must be able to play special teams, because, barring injuries, he won't get a lot of offensive snaps. That would seem to favor Maehl, who played on all of the Eagles' special teams last season.

Momah has been getting work on all four special-teams units. Best thing you can say at the moment is he's a work in progress.

"He's doing fine [on special teams]," Shurmur said. "He's practicing on special teams. He's doing fine."

Momah played on special teams at Boston College. In fact, his knee injury occurred when he was running down to cover on a kickoff.

"I played a lot of special teams in college," he said. "I was a little bit heavier and played all special teams."

He struggled on special teams in training camp and the preseason last summer.

"Now, I realize how important it is, and I'm learning as well," he said. "I feel comfortable playing it now and I'm trying to use it to help me make this team.

"We have a lot of really good special-teams players here, so it's tough to crack those groups. But if I can show how consistent I am, it's going to help me out in the long run if I can prove I can do more than catch the ball."

After getting released by the Eagles last summer, Momah spent the fall working with a receivers coach, former Hofstra assistant Kahmal Roy, and catching passes from his former high school teammate and former University of New Hampshire quarterback, James Brady.

He was re-signed as a street free agent by the Eagles in January and showed in the spring camps and OTAs the improvement he had made since the previous summer.

Momah has made the most improvement in getting off the line of scrimmage and into his route.

"The biggest thing I worked on was my release [off the line]," he said. "This is a man's league. Especially with our offense, they're going to press you.

"Last year, I had trouble getting off the line. But I think I showed today [against the Patriots] just how good I'm getting off the line now. If you can do that, you can play in this league."

Quarterback Nick Foles clearly has noticed Momah's dramatic improvement.

"Night and day difference," he said. "He's a big guy, a talented guy. He had the time off on his own last year and you can tell he really worked hard to improve and wanted to come out and make the team. He's improved in all facets."


Email: pdomo@aol.com

On Twitter: @Pdomo

Blog: ph.ly/Eagletarian.com

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