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5 Things You Might Have Missed

Posted Aug 9, 2014

Following Friday night’s preseason opener for the Eagles, here’s a different twist on 5 Things To Know Today. Here are some of the storylines that might have been overshadowed , but are deserving of some attention …

1. Marcus Smith II: Hiding In Plain Sight

Rarely has there been an Eagles first-round pick who has received such little preseason attention as linebacker Marcus Smith II. Perhaps overshadowed by his fellow rookies at flashier positions, Smith did his part to grab more attention moving forward with an impressive first game as a pro.

Though he was only credited with two tackles and a pass defensed, Smith II was active in the Bears’ backfield as a pass rusher and generally looked the part of the athletic phenom on whom the Eagles used the 26th overall pick.

“I think it went really well,” Smith said. “I think everything went the way it was supposed to go. Some stuff I can clean up, a lot of technique work. I feel like I did OK overall, always could get better though.

“All (the defensive assignment) stuff came together, now it’s just me going out and making plays. I made some plays. I got to the quarterback a couple times, but I want to be able to get to the quarterback every time, each opportunity I get. Every opportunity I get, I want to get closer and closer to the quarterback.”

Like most rookies, Smith admitted to some pre-game jitters, though these didn’t last very long.

“Yeah, before the game, definitely, I was nervous,” said Smith. “But as soon as I got my first play in there, got the first hit that one time, I was good. But there’s always going to be nervousness before the game. That’s just me.”

2. Ifeanyi Momah: Starting To Look The Part

Wide receiver Ifeanyi Momah went from a dazzling combination of size and speed to Training Camp afterthought to unemployed, all in his first stint with the Eagles last summer. Re-signed in the offseason, Momah has looked to be a completely different player this summer than the raw, and sometimes rusty, receiver he was last year.

As a result, the 6-foot-7 receiver got the nod to start with Riley Cooper and Jeff Maehl sidelined Friday night. And, of course, Momah would have his number called on the very first play from scrimmage, hauling in a 12-yard pass from Nick Foles.

“It was awesome,” Momah said. “It was a good experience. Obviously a lot to learn from. I didn’t want to go in with any nerves or make any mistakes and I think I did decent for the first game. But it was exciting. Keep fighting, keep getting better and try to make this team this year.”

Momah caught two passes for 15 yards on the night, but the difference between the two years was apparent. What exactly, though, are the differences between 2013 Momah and the current version who was trusted with a starting gig?

“I think overall it’s just confidence, being a comfortable receiver and also just route-running and catching,” he said. “That all comes with experience and it’s hard to just pick it up. I sat out for two years and just jumped into it last year, so having that under my belt last year and running with the first team and running routes, it’s been helpful.”

3. Don’t Forget About Joe

Like Momah, defensive end Joe Kruger had not played in a live football game since the preseason finale last summer. Unlike Momah, though, Kruger, the 2013 seventh-round pick, was able to spend the 2013 season rehabbing a shoulder injury at the NovaCare Complex, working on his strength and preparing for the season ahead. But there were no tangible rewards for that hard work … until Friday night.

Credited with two tackles, a tackle for loss, a field-goal block (which is still up for debate) and several quarterback pressures, Kruger too looked to be a completely different player than the 2013 version.

“It was awesome,” Kruger said. “I hadn’t played in a year, so it was nice to put on the pads, line up against a different team and start moving around again, but I played good, made a few plays. Obviously, there are always things that I can improve, so I’m just going to watch the film and try to get better.”

Kruger is actually the second-youngest player on the Eagles roster at 22 years old (Jordan Matthews is the youngest), so the jump he’s made in one year should bode well for his future.

“Last summer, I was a lot lighter, I wasn’t using my hands nearly as much and I was trying to get used to a new defense,” Kruger said. “So I was way more comfortable. I just felt really good out on the field.”

What was the difference?

“Technique, learning how to use my hands, gaining the weight, just putting that together,” he said. “I felt really comfortable out there. There were a few plays where I messed up a little bit, but overall I thought I did pretty good.”

4. Kelce’s Silver Lining

Sure, the Eagles’ first-team offense failed to score on three possessions, turned the ball over twice and committed several penalties. But according to center Jason Kelce, that’s probably just what the doctor ordered.

“You don’t want to go out there and just crush them,” Kelce said. “Really, that’s awesome if you do that, but it’s better to find out your weaknesses and what you need to work on now rather than in the regular season, when it really matters. There are some things we’ll take from this game, especially from the starters’ perspective. We didn’t do a bad job moving the ball, but we just made too many mistakes, too many things that really cost us, whether it’s turnovers, penalties, shooting ourselves in the foot. We’ll go back on film and kind of see what led to those and hopefully not make those same mistakes.”

5. The Other, Other Running Back

Undrafted rookie running back David Fluellen knows that you probably haven’t been paying too much attention to him thus far in Training Camp. It’s understandable, after all, with the likes of LeSean McCoy and Darren Sproles in the backfield and young, talented players like Chris Polk and Matthew Tucker ahead on the depth chart.

But Fluellen did his best to introduce himself to Eagles fans Friday night, rushing for 25 yards on six carries, including a few bruising runs between the tackles, and diving in for his first NFL touchdown on a 14-yard screen pass.

“I think they got a glimpse of what I could do. I feel like I can still do more and I just have to show it next week,” Fluellen said. “It was a great experience. My first NFL game, I went out there and just played and had fun with it.”

Fellow rookie Josh Huff kept the ball from his 102-yard kickoff return touchdown, but Fluellen was unable to procure the ball with which he scored his first NFL touchdown.

“I think I was a little too excited and just misplaced it somewhere,” Fluellen said with a smile. “It’s all right, I got the job done and we still have some things to work on.

“Our line did a good job of setting it up on the screen and all I had to do was just go in. It was exciting, my first NFL touchdown. All I could do was just thank God.”

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