Rookie cornerback Brandon Boykin ready to earn spot on Eagles' roster

Eagles rookie Brandon Boykin carries his bags after reporting to his first NFL training camp at Lehigh.
Eagles rookie Brandon Boykin carries his bags after reporting to his first NFL training camp at Lehigh. (YONG KIM / Staff Photographer)
Posted: July 24, 2012

BETHLEHEM, Pa. - When Brandon Boykin returned home in mid-June to Fayetteville, Ga., he breathed a sigh of relief. The Eagles minicamp had just wrapped up, and finally he could take a break.

After three days passed, boredom crept in.

"You're ready to get back up there and get going," the 22-year-old cornerback said. "I'm definitely glad it's here. . . . I'm ready to see how I can do in this atmosphere. Everybody's excited."

Boykin, the Eagles' fourth-round pick in this year's draft, was among the team's rookies reporting to training camp Sunday afternoon. As they moved into their dormitories at Lehigh University, the first-timers brought backpacks and suitcases, along with hopes that they could find a role on the team.

Boykin will try to carve out a place for himself on the depth chart in two spots: nickel corner and kick returner. That's the type of leeway afforded a college player as diverse as Boykin was at Georgia, where he was a cornerback, kick returner, punt returner, running back, and "Wildcat" quarterback.

For the nickel spot, Boykin should be competing with eight-year veteran Joselio Hanson, coach Andy Reid said Sunday. And in the kick-return game, the rookie will be looking to unseat Dion Lewis, who last season left much to the imagination, averaging 21.6 yards per return and failing to carry one into the end zone.

Boykin said Sunday he is confident he can handle both roles for the Eagles this season. During his career at Georgia, he set school records in kick-return yards (2,663) and touchdowns (four). He also was named second-team all-Southeastern Conference last year for his play at cornerback. There, Boykin intercepted three passes, registered 55 tackles, and stopped the ballcarrier behind the line 11 times - best among the conference's defensive backs.

"I'm experienced [playing against] that slot position," he said. "I've been returning kicks since I was a freshman, and I don't think it will be that much different if I just continue to do what I'm supposed to do."

As Boykin spoke with reporters, other rookies checked in at Lehigh. The cornerback said the first-year players had bonded during the NFL's rookie symposium, and the group understands what coaches expect.

More than anyone in that group, Boykin's defensive teammate, tackle Fletcher Cox, knows that the Eagles need him to produce this season. Cox, the team's first-round pick, is expected to be part of the Eagles' frontline rotation from day one.

With training camp marking the first time players will strap on pads, the coming weeks will give Cox his first chance to show he can help improve a defensive unit that ranked 16th in the NFL with 112.6 rushing yards allowed per game.

"It goes through my mind," Cox said of the first-round-pick pressure. "But I feel like I just go out and do what's coached. Whatever [defensive line coach Jim] Washburn tells me to do, whatever Coach Reid tells me . . . I'll do it every day."

If he does that every day, the Eagles won't give him a break. And that's a good thing. You don't want a break. Just ask Boykin.


Contact Tyler Jett at 215-854-4550 or tjett@philly.com.

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