Boykin making the most of his opportunities

RON CORTES /STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Brandon Boykin celebrates his game-saving interception against the Cowboys.
RON CORTES /STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Brandon Boykin celebrates his game-saving interception against the Cowboys.
Posted: January 03, 2014

BRANDON BOYKIN'S interception of Kyle Orton in the final minutes of the fourth quarter against Dallas was much more than a division-clinching play. For Boykin, it was a moment he and the city of Philadelphia will never forget.

As Boykin stepped in front of Cowboys receiver Miles Austin to grab his second game-clinching interception of the season, the 2012 fourth-round draft pick added to what had already been a spectacular sophomore season with the Eagles.

"It was good, really good. I'm more tired of talking about it than anything, but it was a big play that we needed at that time and gave us another chance to play so that's good," said Boykin, who will be part of the defensive backfield that is expected to be tested by Saints quarterback Drew Brees on Saturday night in the NFC wild-card game.

Asked where that play would rank among his biggest, Boykin smiled and said: "I think it has to be first. It meant more than the other plays, to be honest, just as far as what was on the line, so you've got to rank it up there."

After a rookie season last year in which Boykin did not record an interception, the nickel cornerback finished this regular season with six, the most among the Eagles and tied for second in the NFL behind Seattle's Richard Sherman, who finished with eight interceptions.

For both Boykin and coach Chip Kelly, the success of the 5-10, 185-pound cornerback from Georgia comes as a surprise not only because of his limited experience in the NFL, but because of his limited playing time this season.

"Like I've been saying, whenever I get on the field, I know that the majority of the times, I'm going to get the opportunity to get the ball thrown my way, whether it's third down, second down or whatever the situation is," Boykin said. "Just being prepared for that, you're going to get your share of plays and you have to be prepared for that."

Said Kelly: "Just how hard he works in practice and kind of what you see on Sundays is what we see every day in practice. That's kind of what we preach around here is that you don't rise to the occasion; you sink to your level of training, and he trains at a very high level every day he's out there, and that's evident to us and as a staff. And what you see on Sundays is what we see every day during the week."

Aside from all of the success the Eagles have gotten from their second-year cornerback, the main problem for defensive coordinator Bill Davis concerning Boykin has been finding the right opportunities to put him on the field. In Sunday's 24-22 win in Dallas, Boykin recorded one interception, deflected three passes and recorded three total tackles, while participating in only 42 percent of the team's defensive chances.

"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."

Although he has not been on the field as much as some think he should be, Boykin said playing in nickel situations has helped him grow as a player, because he is able to focus on one particular scheme.

"Just the growth from the beginning of the year until now is huge," Boykin said. "Just from the ins and outs of the scheme to me being able to read what receivers are doing in certain situations. [Davis] is right about that. Just my growth in that and not having to worry about anything else has helped me, especially this year where I'm learning and getting better."

While Boykin played in all 16 games this season, he started in only two - against San Diego and Denver. In his rookie season, Boykin started four games at cornerback, recording 25 total tackles, one sack and a forced fumble.

Cornerback Cary Williams, who is on the field for almost every defensive snap, has seen Boykin develop as the year as gone by and is impressed not only with his work ethic, but how much he has contributed this early in his career.

"I think his development is huge," Williams said. "I think Brandon Boykin is constantly a pro. He is a guy that comes in every day working hard and he works on catching the ball, he works on his breaks and being the best gunner he possibly can. He's a huge contributor on every level with this team, whether it's special teams and his return game, whether it's a gunner, whether it's being a nickel defensive back coming into the game and locking people up."

After earning most opportunities last season on special teams, Boykin said he learned from mistakes he made as a rookie.

"The way I approach the game and the way I approach my preparation each week is a lot different," Boykin said. "It's just kind of getting in a groove and knowing what it takes to prepare and be successful. That's more than just studying film at practice. It's your daily habits, like when you go to sleep, what to do and just your everyday routine. I've kind of got that down pat now, and the game has slowed down to me.

"Everybody told me between your first and second year is when you make your biggest jump, and I've had a lot of success this year, but I'm hoping to get better. I'm hoping next year will be better, too."

With the Eagles in the playoffs for the first time since the 2010 season, Boykin said he believes he will receive increased playing time against New Orleans and other potential opponents moving forward, but added playing time means nothing as long as the Eagles perform well and win.

"I'm on the field a lot, and the time that I'm getting, I'm making plays," Boykin said. "I'm not really worried about that at all. It's gotten us to where we have gotten and I know what my role is and everybody is kind of jelling, so it doesn't matter to me."

On Twitter: @JohnMurrow12

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