Confident Boykin Ready To Step in

Eagles cornerback Brandon BoykinBrandon Boykin was checking Twitter Friday afternoon when he got the news.

“People were saying ‘Congratulations on winning the slot position.’ And I’m like what? What’s going on? Did somebody make an announcement or something?” Boykin said. “I checked my Twitter, and it said Joselio [Hanson] had been released or whatever, and like 10 minutes later, he called me.”

The Eagles rookie cornerback played with the second team for all of training camp, but in the preseason, he mixed in with Hanson and the starters. The coaches liked what they saw and decided the athletic fourth-round pick was ready to get on the field right away.

Hanson had been a reliable nickel cornerback for the Eagles since he joined the team in 2006. Before he turned in his playbook, and eventually signed with the Raiders, he made sure to touch base with the guy who was taking his job.

“He was asking what I was up to or whatever, and he said that he had gotten released and just to tell me good luck and things like that,” Boykin said. “That really made me feel good, no matter if we were competing or not, for him to take the time out to call me. I just told him thanks for everything he had done for me, helping me and kind of preparing me for this moment, and told him good luck. I told him to keep in touch and if he ever needed anything from me – he probably won’t – not hesitate to let me know. So I felt good about that.”

It all sunk in for Boykin Monday morning when he was the only nickel corner mixing in with the first team. Last year, the Eagles played an extra defensive back on about 47 percent of their snaps. In addition to his responsibilities covering the opposing slot receiver, Boykin will be counted on as the Eagles’ primary kickoff returner, an area of special teams that gave the team very little in 2011.

“That shows a lot of confidence that the coaches have in me, for me to have all this responsibility right away, but I’m definitely ready for the challenge,” Boykin said.

“Just coming in this morning, everybody came up to me and said, ‘You’ve got to prepare harder than you ever did, knowing that you haven’t had the experience, but you have the ability.’ They’re banking on that, knowing that I’m a good player, but I’ve got to put it all together right away. And I’m definitely willing to do that.”

The first test comes Sunday afternoon against Cleveland. Boykin will get matched up against 2011 second-round pick Greg Little. According to Pro Football Focus, Little played about 36 percent of his snaps in the slot last season. Among rookie wide receivers, only Cincinnati’s A.J. Green had more receptions last year. Little (6-3, 220) finished with 61 catches and 709 yards in his first season.

“Good receiver. Big, physical guy. Got deceptive speed, great ball skills,” Boykin said. “Definitely going to be up to me to get up inside of him and really challenge him for the ball. I got to see him in preseason, got a chance to play with the ones early, so I could see what he could do. I think I’ll be ok.”

The Eagles’ defense is counting on him being right.