EVERYBODY loves an underdog, and every year there is a rookie of humble pedigree who catches the imagination of Eagles fans. Sometimes he's a seventh-round draft choice (Nate Ilaoa, a stubby fullback from Hawaii in 2007), sometimes he's an undrafted free agent (Chad Hall, a height-challenged ex-Air Force officer in 2010, or Damaris Johnson, the wideout/returner who supplanted Hall last year).
Quite often, this object of fan affection doesn't even make the team. When he does make it, his impact tends to lag way behind the amount of attention he gets on message boards. But fandom sees an unfilled need on the team and decides this guy can fill it, if only the coaches would give him a chance.
Which brings us to Ifeanyi Momah, the first wide receiver the Eagles have employed who can look director of player development and alumni Harold Carmichael in the eye.
The Eagles have had trouble scoring in the red zone for years. Fans have finally abandoned the Plaxico Burress watch. Hank Baskett was better on reality TV than when trying to separate from a corner. Riley Cooper showed some promise late last season, hasn't really established that much in his 3 years here. But Momah is 6-7, 239, and some fans seem to think that means he is the guy to end the curse. Even though he caught only 39 passes in his Boston College career, even though he sat out 2012 after going undrafted in the wake of a 2011 ACL tear.
"I'm just excited for the opportunity," Momah said after yesterday's workout. "Obviously, I sat out a whole year . . . I'm going to come out and I'm going to work my behind off, give it all I got."
Momah said that his knee is fine, that now he is "working on the little things I might have lost, even the little things I might never have had - getting quicker and those things."
Momah spent his full 5 years at BC, but he has a little bit in common with Bryce Brown, last year's rookie running back who came to the NFL after having virtually not played in college. Momah never caught more than 19 passes in a season at BC; he redshirted as a junior with what was later described as a minor knee injury, after catching only 12 passes his first two seasons. Coaches supposedly were mulling switching him to defense, and he eventually played some third-down defensive end. Momah was set to finally take a big wideout role as a fifth-year senior when he tore his ACL in the opener against Northwestern, after catching eight passes for 157 yards. He has a lot to learn about the position.
"With me, it's been the fundamentals," he said when asked about his NFL transition. "Bursting off the ball, staying low in and out of breaks, looking everything in and catching it. I have some of the raw talent, but you're never a good receiver in the NFL until you have the complete package."
Momah got back into the NFL discussion after working out at BC's pro day this year. Momah has said the Saints, Browns and Steelers also were interested in signing him.
He noted yesterday that new Eagles coach Chip Kelly is all about creating mismatches. Momah said he thinks he might be able to do that.
The Eagles released undrafted rookie running back Miguel Maysonet and signed undrafted rookie tight end Will Shaw. They currently employ seven tight ends, which might be a franchise record . . . Jason Avant caught a 40-yard touchdown pass despite the shutdown coverage of Brandon Graham. It was an odd sight.