Eagles cornerback Boykin ready to stand tall

"I know, without a doubt, I can be a starting corner," says the 5-foot-10 Brandon Boykin.
"I know, without a doubt, I can be a starting corner," says the 5-foot-10 Brandon Boykin. (AKIRA SUWA / Staff Photographer)
Posted: June 07, 2013

Of the regulars in the Eagles secondary, Brandon Boykin would seem to have the tightest grip on his position.

Every spot is said to be open, but if another slot cornerback was to emerge ahead of Boykin by the start of the season, it would be a surprise.

And yet, despite his solid status inside, Boykin still yearns to start on the outside.

"I know, without a doubt, I can be a starting corner," Boykin said Wednesday after the second day of minicamp. "The coaches know that I have the capability."

And what if he was the most capable? The competition isn't exactly fierce. Cary Williams and Bradley Fletcher, acquired through free agency, have generally run with the first team this week and would seem to be the front-runners. But neither is a shoo-in.

The 5-foot-10 Boykin (the Eagles listed him at 5-9 last season) doesn't exactly fit the Chip Kelly mold for outside cornerbacks, though. The new Eagles coach likes his defenders to be tall and rangy. But he may have the greatest upside because of his athleticism.

"He knows what type of athlete I am," Boykin, 22, said of Kelly. "He knows the ability I have, whether it's my vertical or my speed. I can't really help my height and I know the coaches have a lot of confidence in me and I just want to really maximize it."

Highlight reels of Boykin's high school dunks have been on YouTube for years, but recently someone posted video of his dunks for the Eagles' pickup basketball team. Boykin said Kelly and some of his coaches watched.

"They were watching the game from a couple of weeks ago, seeing me dunk, and [Kelly] was like, 'Just don't get hurt,' " Boykin said. "He knows I won't have a problem with a jump ball."

Kelly did not dismiss the idea of Boykin's playing outside. But he added that he won't have a true grasp of the cornerbacks until the players don pads at training camp.

"He can play man-to-man," Kelly said. "But now we'll get a chance to see how he fits in [defensive coordinator Bill Davis'] scheme. What was he asked to do in that scheme last year? I don't know."

The NFL's zone defenses gave Boykin the most trouble in his rookie season last year, especially early on. He made a costly mistake late in the fifth game, when he was out of position and quarterback Ben Roethlisberger completed a 20-yard third-down pass on the Steelers' winning drive.

"Roethlisberger was scrambling in the pocket, and in the NFL you have to still stay in your zone because at any moment he can still throw the ball," Boykin said. "It was just me still learning. But in order to improve, you've got to make those mistakes."

There were other travails. In one early-season stretch, the former Georgia star faced Pro Bowl receivers Anquan Boldin, Larry Fitzgerald, and Victor Cruz. He held his own against Boldin and had his troubles with Fitzgerald, but he kept Cruz in check.

After his up-and-down start and before the Steelers game, receiver Antonio Brown called Boykin the "candy bar" in the Eagles secondary.

"I didn't even guard him, but it's expected as a rookie," Boykin said. "If we play him again, he can say whatever he thinks. I learned a lot guarding those guys. And I wouldn't want it any other way than to face the best guy each and every time. I felt like I held my own."

While he played only about 50 percent of the snaps on defense, Boykin was the most consistent performer in the secondary as 2012 wound down to its woeful conclusion.

Boykin wouldn't mind more responsibility on defense, but he said he would accept whatever role the coaches give him.

"At the end of the day, it's what's best for the team," Boykin said. "If I'm the best nickel or my skills at nickel can help us, I'm definitely going to be there."


Contact Jeff McLane at jmclane@phillynews.com. Follow on Twitter @Jeff_McLane.

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