Towards the end of last year, Eagles defensive coordinator Billy Davis was asked about the way he handled Brandon Boykin’s playing time and whether there were ways to get the play-making defensive back more snaps.
“I really think, and I believe this, that one of the reasons that he’s grown like he’s grown and made the plays that he’s making is because we’ve allowed him to specialize and really focus on the nickel position and how to play,” Davis said. “He’s a young player that’s still growing and I think that is one of the things that we’ve done that I’m most happy with. And I understand he’s got a lot of interceptions and second in the league, but I think that’s a product of specialization and really knowing exactly and playing a position with confidence and that’s how you win.”
Boykin had six interceptions last year, tied for second in the league. He had 23 interceptions/passes defensed combined; that ranked fifth.
The numbers would be impressive for any starting cornerback in the NFL. But Boykin’s accomplishments were even more noteworthy considering he only played 51.6 percent of the team’s defensive snaps, per Pro Football Focus. Davis’ comments left the impression that perhaps in Boykin’s third year he might get more of a shot to play on the outside. But Chip Kelly talked about Boykin last month and seemed to indicate that the third-year player would remain in his role as the team’s nickel.
“I think our two outside corners are very good football players,” Kelly said. “Again, it’s a matchup game. The bigger receivers are on the outside. The smaller receivers are on the inside. So you’ve got two longer guys in Fletch [Bradley Fletcher] and Cary [Williams] that really fit in terms of getting matched up. When most people, if they’re gonna be in ’21’ personnel, then they’re not small outside. They’re big outside. So when they’re big, we’re big. I think when you bring in the Wes Welkers and the great slot receivers in this league, you need to have someone that has the ability to cover them. And I think that’s what Brandon’s strength really is. That’s the way we’ve always looked at it.”
It’s true that a lot of teams are trying to find bigger corners. But looking at the 64 cornerbacks who played the most snaps league-wide last season, seven were 5-9 or under (using their heights coming out of college). That’s roughly 10.9 percent. It’s not a huge number, but there are still some smaller corners playing on the outside.
Boykin (who is 5-9) has made it clear that he believes he can play on the outside and be effective. Given what we’ve seen through his first two seasons, it’s hard to argue against at least giving him a shot.
But again, Kelly has given no indication that that’s part of the plan for this offseason.
“It’s like anything… I want guys that want to be out there every single snap,” Kelly said. “I wouldn’t say, ‘Hey, this guy is content being out there for only X amount of snaps.’ That’s one thing I love about Brandon. He wants to play every snap of defense. He wants to play every snap of special teams. He wants to return kickoffs. That’s just the type of player he is.
“But we always have to make decisions as coaches in terms of what are our players’ strengths and where they grade at. And I think looking at how we’re matched up right now, I think it’s a great matchup for us. And I think you ask anybody in the league, you better have three corners because more people are gonna be in ’11’ than they’re gonna be in ’21.’ And that’s where you can’t be caught short with that.”
Boykin signed a four-year deal worth about $2.5 million coming out of college as a fourth-round pick. Howie Roseman has pointed out on multiple occasions that one reason the Eagles are carrying over cap space this offseason is so they can retain their core players – specifically guys who were drafted in 2012 and will be eligible to renegotiate after next season (Nick Foles, Fletcher Cox, Mychal Kendricks and Boykin).
If Boykin doesn’t get a shot to play more snaps in the next two seasons, perhaps he’ll be reluctant to re-up without first testing the waters. Of course, that’s still a long way away. Boykin is signed through 2015. But it’s something to keep in mind when analyzing the decisions the coaching staff makes at cornerback this offseason.
WHAT YOU MISSED
The Eagles have finalized dates and times for their preseason schedule.
T-Mac talks Allen Robinson, Dion Jordan and more in his weekly mailbag.
Our Draft Daily series focuses in on LSU WR Odell Beckham Jr.
How early is too early for the Eagles to draft a QB if he’s deemed the best player available? McManus examines.
WHAT THEY’RE SAYING
Zach Berman of The Inquirer caught up with Daniel Jeremiah of NFL.com about the Eagles’ pick at 22:
“I think a lot of people have been hung up on the speed receivers, saying they’re going to find somebody to replace DeSean Jackson, so you talk about Brandin Cooks and maybe Odell Beckham…but I look at Kelvin Benjamin, who is a little bit of a polarizing player out of Florida State, that to me would be a name to keep an eye on,” Jeremiah said Thursday. “Chip Kelly at Oregon, everybody focuses on the pace and the tempo. They kind of assume he likes little small, fast players. But on the outside, they always had some big, physical receivers. And I would think adding more size, if you had Kelvin Benjamin [and Riley Cooper, and Jeremy Maclin], now your offense is not only going to be able to move the ball in the 20s, but now you get down into the red zone, you got two guys you can throw the ball up to.”
Jimmy Kempski of Philly.com looks at the possibility of the Eagles handing Mychal Kendricks a new contract after next season:
Kendricks struggled as a rookie and in the early part of the 2013 season, but was much better as his second season wore on. He still has plenty of upside, and with DeMeco Ryans’ tenure as an Eagle potentially coming to a close sometime in the next year, Kendricks’ importance to the middle of the defense will be heightened.
We’ll take a look at another WR prospect.