Brandon Boykin to stay Eagles' slot specialist

Brandon Boykin to stay Eagles' slot specialist
February 21, 2014, 10:45 am
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Despite playing just 51 percent of the Eagles' defensive snaps, Brandon Boykin tied for second in the NFL with six interceptions. (USA Today Images)

INDIANAPOLIS -- Brandon Boykin this past year became only the fifth NFL player in the last 24 years to record at least six interceptions despite starting two or fewer games.

That’s life in the slot. Much like Terry Hoage 25 years earlier, Boykin made a huge impact despite being limited almost exclusively to playing on clear passing downs. Hoage played only in nickel in 1988 and didn’t start a single game but was second in the NFL with eight interceptions.

Defensive coordinator Billy Davis determined early on that Boykin, a 22-year-old corner in his second NFL season, had the perfect makeup to be a terrific slot corner, but he didn’t want to burden him with outside corner duties. Even in the event of injury.

No matter what, Boykin would stay inside.

And, it appears, he’s staying there.

Boykin, despite tying for second in the NFL in interceptions this past season -- behind only Richard Sherman -- will likely remain only a slot corner again in 2014, Eagles general manager Howie Roseman said at the NFL Scouting Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium.

The Eagles just believe Boykin is better off doing one thing and doing it really well than trying to add outside corner duties to his arsenal.

“When you talk about the nickel position, really, with the [three-wide] offenses in the NFL, they’re playing 60, 65 percent of the plays,” Roseman said.

“When you talk about that role, it’s hard to find. That is a specialty role that is hard to find. He did have six interceptions in that role.”

Boykin actually played only 51 percent of the Eagles’ defensive snaps this year -- 615 of 1,201.

So one of the NFL’s best playmaking defensive backs was on the bench for nearly half of the Eagles’ defensive snaps.

He also played 281 snaps on special teams, so that’s another 17½ plays per game.

“I think he is one of the best -- if not the best -- gunners in the National Football League, and that’s a very important role for us too,” Roseman said. “So he has a big role on our team and then he’s a younger player who’s going to continue to grow and get better.”

Boykin is on the record as saying he wants to play more and doesn’t want to be limited to only snaps when the opposing offense has three receivers on the field.

“I always want to be on the field,” he said back in November. “That’s what I’m used to, my whole life.

“It’s not my decision. But I know how capable I am of playing outside, and they do too.”

The other part of the equation is that the Eagles’ decision to keep Boykin inside is a sign that they’re satisfied with the production of Cary Williams and Bradley Fletcher, the two veteran corners they signed in free agency last year.

Roseman agreed that the Eagles need cornerback depth but indicated that he’s fine moving forward with Williams and Fletcher as the starting outside corners.

“We went into last offseason wanting to get size, length, ball skills, tackling out of the cornerback position, and I think both those guys did a really good job,” Roseman said.

“But you’re talking about a very important position. You can never have enough corners in this league, you can never have enough big corners in this league, you can never have enough playmakers.

“No matter who’s on your roster, we’re always going to be carefully evaluating that position.”