Boykin, Johnson Start Off As Returners

Eagles cornerback Brandon BoykinThe Eagles’ selection of Brandon Boykin in the fourth round of April’s draft made sense on a couple different levels.

For starters, he is expected to compete for the nickel corner job, currently occupied by Joselio Hanson. But also, Boykin can give the Eagles a much-needed boost in their return game, which was horrible in 2011.

According to Football Outsiders’ rankings, the Eagles ranked 24th on kickoff returns and 27th on punt returns. They don’t plan on using DeSean Jackson as the primary punt returner this season, although he isn’t being phased out completely.

“I want him to concentrate on the receiving end of it,” Reid said. “And most of all, we think we have guys that can contribute there and be effective, and that are explosive players. Now we have to see.”

Boykin’s one of those guys. Reid said he’s the primary kickoff returner for now. Boykin has also returned punts in the past (check out video below), but undrafted free agent Damaris Johnson will handle those to start off. It’s impossible to tell much of anything about how the returners look at practice, but that’s certainly something to keep an eye on when the preseason kicks off.

Meanwhile, Reid said Hanson is ahead of Boykin right now at the nickel corner spot, but he expects the rookie to compete for that job.

“I expect him to try to do that, but I’ll tell you, Joselio, one of his strengths is he knows what he’s doing,” Reid said. “And so Boykin’s got to put his nose to the grinder and make sure he learns and competes and challenges him, and I think he’ll do that.”

Follow Sheil Kapadia on Twitter and e-mail him at skapadia@phillymag.com.

  • Solomon

    Can’t wait to see what the rookies can do in the return game. The Eagles were horrible in this area last year. I still remember the Bad News Bears play where DeSean Jackson fielded the kick and threw it across the field to Curtis Marsh, who promptly fumbled deep in Eagles territory. That play was a microcosm of the Eagles year.

  • Andy

    Isn’t the role of kick returner almost completely devalued by the new rules moving the kick up to the 35-yard line? I’d rather see Boykin returning punts.

    • jasvic

      Too many times last year Lewis would take the kickoff 3 or 4 yards in the end zone and bring it out, only to fail to reach the 20. Having a guy back there that knows when and when not to bring it out would be an improvement. And if he can get 5-10 more yards on top of it, it would be a bonus.

    • Jack

      When you are ranked 24th in a specific position, it is something that needs improved upon, regardless of the assumed “value” of the position.

  • http://profiles.google.com/wydok42 Scott Korin

    I would like to see some new blood in the return game. Jackson is too important to have out there on special teams, and Lewis was stinking up the field on kickoffs,

  • Soybot

    Dion Lewis was terrible as a KR last year. Hard to see Boykins not earning that spot.

  • http://twitter.com/ScottJ610 Scott J

    I’m really looking forward to watching these guys. Lewis was a huge disappointment. You would think he would have at least accidentally broken a long return.

  • http://twitter.com/ScottJ610 Scott J

    Boykin looked great on that punt return. You can see he has good vision and has the right moves.

  • Good Lookin ouT

    Hey Sheil, can this Damaris Johnson run good routes and catch the ball in traffic? Does he appear hesitant or intimidated? I’m wondering the same about McNutt or whatever his name. Is there any potential from the recent draftees to challenge for time this year, besides on special teams?