Phildaelphia Eagles Wide Receiver Ifeanyi Momah’s career has just begun.
If you see a little sillohuetta of a man, it’s not Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver Ifeanyi Momah. At 6′ 7″, Momah would be the first wide receiver to play for the Philadelphia Eagles at that height since one of my favorite players, Harold Carmichael.
Momah signed with the Philadelphia Eagles in 2013 to a three year deal, but throughout training camp in 2013 was an incredible long shot to make the team. He had all the right measurables, but nothing translated to a football field. In joint practices with New England, he was practically an orange pylon, catching nothing thrown his way. By roster time and final cuts, that lack of football skills was the end of what every fan hoped might be a successful career with the Philadelphia Eagles.
But by January of 2014, despite having no interest from any other NFL team, the Eagles resigned the big man. A second chance is sometimes no better than the first. But sometimes, the competitive spirit of a professional athlete mixes with failure and results in uber motivation. Suddenly, the dilemna of how to use his height in adapting to catching an NFL pass was solved as though Momah had read the study guide in the time away. Momah catches passes, and uses his height to an incredible advantage. Offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur has noticed the difference:
“He’s made a lot of progress. 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.” – offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur
Sometimes its good to have the quarterback on your side too. Last year didn’t give Momah much reason for any quarterback to speak up on his behalf. This year, with injuries to Maclin and Cooper, Momah is getting a chance to work with starting quarterback Nick Foles. Nick noticed Momah has gotten better.
“Night and day difference. 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.” -Nick Foles
But the real test was not the shorts and helmet practices, but the joint practices with New England, where just a year ago Momah failed miserably.
“I know what I’m doing now and feel comfortable running routes, especially in this offense. 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 (of injuries to Cooper and Maclin) and act like it’s on purpose, 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.” – Ifeanyi Momah as interviewed by Paul Domowitch on 13 August 2014
Most have agreed the Eagles will have wide receivers Jeremy Maclin, Riley Cooper, Jordan Matthews and Josh Huff. Brad Smith appears to be a lock on a fifth wide receiver spot. At most, the Eagles are expected to carry six wide receivers, which means Jeff Maehl, Arrelious Benn, and Ifeanyi Momah are battling it out for a potential sixth slot. So that sixth wide receiver slot may come down to more than just pass catching. As a rule, if you aren’t starting you need to perform on special teams. So far, Momah is not lighting up the stage with his special teams play, but he’s not standing out from mistakes there either. Shurmur has indicated that Momah plays well on special teams.
So now it comes down to something nobody likes to admit means anything, preseason games. It’s not just important for Momah to avoid mistakes in preseason, but to make plays against any level of defender he faces. If Momah is fighting for a wide receiver spot, he has to generate success against what is presumed to be starting caliber defensive talent. With limited numbers of plays, that translates into making the most of any time a ball is thrown his way.
And that’s the rub. A career hangs in the balance of a few weeks, a few plays on camera. But if you noticed the resiliency of the guy, and factor in the incredible potential of having a wide receiver who can look “megatron” Calvin Johnson in the eye, you can’t help but feel a little giddy.
It’s all up to Ifeanyi Momah. The opportunities exist. He now has to make the most of them.
GAME UPDATE: You could see the frustration in head coach Chip Kelly’s face in the post game interview. “We had that fumble on the first possession, and we couldn’t seem to get any rhythm going.” That fumble belonged to Momah, who had one of the more forgettable nights. While the box score showed three passes caught (out of four targets) for 28 yards, the game showed anything but that. Two fumble lost. A sure touchdown bobbled in the end zone and caught by teammate Arrelious Benn. While no decision rests entirely on the fortunes or misfortunes of a preseason game, Ifeanyi Momah was only eclipsed by Curtis Marsh as far as poor play.
A performance Momah could not afford to have, particularly with the starting receivers returning this week.
If he cannot recover from the disastrous performance in the New England game, then a stanza from Bohemian Rhapsody will be appropriate:
“If I’m not back again this time tomorrow
Carry on, carry on, as if nothing really matters.”