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Why wide receiver Deon Cain actually has a chance to make the Eagles


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Why wide receiver Deon Cain actually has a chance to make the Eagles

The Eagles re-signed Cain after his stint in the USFL.

By Reuben Frank, Eagles Insider  Published July 28, 2023


When Deon Cain got the opportunity to play in the new USFL this past spring, he was skeptical.

The USFL? Really? Would anybody be paying attention? If he played well, would NFL teams even notice? Would it be worth his time?

So he got in touch with former Eagles teammate Greg Ward, who revived his career in the spring of 2019 playing for the San Antonio Commanders in another minor league, the ill-fated Alliance of American Football.

Ward parlayed his AAF experience into another chance with the Eagles and wound up catching 71 passes for 673 yards and seven TDs over the 2019 and 2020 seasons.  

"Going into the USFL I had a lot of questions,” Cain said. "Greg Ward took kind of the same route. He wanted to get back into the league and he played in another league and got back here, and I asked him, ‘Bro, do pro scouts really watch what we do in other leagues?’ 

"And he said, ‘Yeah, they really do. Any time you put some good tape out there, you’re giving yourself a chance to get back to the NFL.'

"I just took that and ran with it and it brought me back here, so I’m definitely glad I did it.”

Cain, who nearly made the Eagles out of camp last summer, spent the past few months with the Birmingham Stallions of the USFL and after catching 16 passes for 182 yards in eight regular-season games (along with a 91-yard kick return TD), he caught three touchdown passes from current Green Bay Packer Alex McGough in Birmingham’s 28-12 win over the Pittsburgh Stallions in the USFL Championship Game in Canton earlier this month. 

Cain caught four passes for 70 yards against Pittsburgh and was named the game’s MVP.

"Just getting the opportunity was big for me,” he said. "A lot of players, practice squad guys, rookie guys who didn’t get drafted and stuff like that, if you didn’t make it to a team after the draft, give the USFL a chance, because they give guys opportunities who might not have gotten that opportunity in the NFL. 

"Play football, get your confidence back, just go out there and play. And it’s an eye in the sky and every time you play – I don’t care where it is – somebody’s watching. I got the opportunity and made the most of it and now I have another chance here.”

The Eagles re-signed Cain earlier this week, and now he’s back in training camp, trying once again to catch on.

"He continued to grow with his opportunity,” Howie Roseman said Wednesday. "He had an opportunity to be featured a little bit more than he had been in the NFL. When coach (Nick Sirianni) came from Indianapolis, he had told us about his work ethic and who the guy was, and when we had an opportunity to bring him here, we saw that last year. 

"He had a good preseason, and he kind of built upon that preseason and put himself in an opportunity to come here and continue to get better. Looking forward to seeing him.”

Sirianni was Cain’s offensive coordinator for two seasons with the Colts, who drafted him in the sixth round out of Clemson in 2018.

The 6-foot-2, 200-pounder caught nine passes for 124 yards in 2019 but hasn’t caught a pass since. He last played an NFL game on the last day of the 2020 season with the Steelers.

Cain was the Eagles’ leading receiver in last preseason with eight catches for 106 yards, but the Eagles didn’t have a roster spot and released him.

Cain may have a better chance this year because the Eagles lack a proven fifth receiver beyond A.J. Brown, DeVonta Smith, Quez Watkins and Olamide Zaccheaus, and there are questions about Watkins’ future as well.

But he knows he’s a longshot.

"The big thing for me is just staying consistent,” he said. "That’s my biggest thing as a football player because you want guys to depend on you, and as the weeks go by I just want them to know they can depend on me whenever my number is called.”

Cain is 26 and six years removed from a big final season at Clemson in the fall of 2017. 

What keeps him going after all these years and disappointments? 

"My son, man,” he said. "My son (Deon Jr.) is a big part of it. And just really my story. Just doing it for the guys who’ve been in my position. I just want to keep going and try to be that example for a lot of people that no matter what challenge you’re faced with, as long as you have heart and you have work ethic, you can do anything. 

"I just want to continue being that light for a lot of people. It can be kids, it can be anyone, just whoever hears my story.”


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