Jordan Poyer knows what some people say about him –- the scouts, the detractors, those who don’t think he can make it in the NFL. He’s heard what they think. He knows the criticism as well as the former Oregon State cornerback knew the tendencies of overmatched Pac-12 wide receivers.
“Obviously, everybody knows I’m not the fastest guy on the field,” Poyer said at the NovaCare Complex this week. “I don’t have that power and strength to jump that 42-inch [vertical leap] that you see from a lot of guys at the Combine.”
The Combine didn’t go well for the defensive back. He ran a 4.65 40-yard dash, and he bench pressed 225 pounds eight times. That has a lot to do with why the All-American slipped in the draft. Some analysts predicted he’d be picked late on Day 2 or early on Day 3. It didn’t happen. Poyer wasn’t selected by the Eagles until the seventh round. He was the 218th overall pick; 26 other cornerbacks were taken ahead of him.
While Poyer’s weaknesses and his plummet down the draft board have been picked over and pointed to by his critics, the corner remains insistent that the Combine isn’t set up to showcase what he does well.
“I think I understand the game of football 100 times more than a lot of players do,” said Poyer, who’s listed at 6-foot, 190 pounds. “I understand my body. I understand who I’m going against. The smarter the player –- you could go out there and be a really good athlete but not understand what you’re supposed to do. You could be just gifted from God, but you don’t know where your help is. But if you understand who you’re going against, if you understand down-and-distance, if you study formations –- if they come out in a two-by-two, what’s their tendencies in a two-by-two? Understanding, if he releases hard outside, is he trying to come back inside? Being able to watch film and understand what you’re watching, I think that’s what I excel at in my game. I understand the game of football. I understand who I’m going against. I understand where my help is. That’s what I excel at.”
Because NFL rules prohibit an incoming rookie from participating in OTAs and mini-camp until his class graduates from college, Poyer didn’t fly into Philly until Sunday night. He arrived with a degree in liberal studies and pre-education from Oregon State. He said that pleased his mother, even if he was in a hurry to transition from a college classroom to an NFL meeting room.
While Poyer spent the last few weeks training in Corvallis, Oregon, many of the Eagles' defensive backs –- with the notable exception of Cary Williams, who has a Ph.D in sconces -– were busy on the NovaCare Complex practice field. That led to a little job-related anxiety for the rookie.
“I was wondering who’s out there trying to take my spot,” he said. “But at the same time I was getting better myself. I was working out five times a week and watching film.”
Poyer had an Eagles playbook with him out in Oregon, which he studied each day. It obviously wasn’t the same as being in the defensive back meeting room, but he’s confident that he learned enough on his own that he won’t be too far behind once training camp begins in late July.
“If we went over it in the morning and we kind of refreshed my memory, if we installed it in the morning, I’d learn it like that,” Poyer said. “At the end of the day, it’s football. If we install it in the morning, I see what I’m supposed to do, I see where my help is and I play to my help ... I think I’d be able to go out there and run it.”
There was a time when Poyer thought he might land a gig with a different team –- in a different sport. In 2009, Poyer, who attended Astoria High School in Oregon, was selected in the 42nd round of the Major League Baseball draft. His freshman year, he helped Astoria win a state championship. He said he pitched and played centerfield and hit 12 home runs that year.
Poyer –- who said he’s always loved football first –- also led Astoria to the Oregon Class 4A state football championship in 2008. That season, he was named the state’s offensive and defensive player of the year. But heading into college, Oregon State was the only FBS school to offer him a football scholarship.
Chip Kelly has since said he regrets not recruiting Poyer to Oregon. (In this video, Kelly, then the head coach at Oregon, interviewed Poyer, then at Oregon State, and called him “probably one of the best defensive backs in the country.”) If Poyer is holding a grudge about it, he’s hiding it well. As he sees it, he’s been proving himself to various people ever since leaving high school. Now he has a chance to prove himself to a guy who passed on him the first time around.
“I’m just waiting for my time,” Poyer said. “I’m just waiting for my time to come in. Everything will work itself out. I feel confident in my game, that I’m able to perform when the time is needed. I feel confident in my understanding of the game, that I can come in and play right away. That’s my goal –- to be as valuable as possible.”