It’s a little too early to make a prediction…but from what I’ve seen on live video stream the past two days, cornerback/kick returner Brandon Boykin is going to make this team…
“Boykin’s done a great job,” secondary coach Mike Zordich said. “In the last two days, it’s hard to say anybody has done anything [to separate themselves]. There’s not enough numbers to tell. But I can say this: in the OTA’s, he certainly was a hard worker, he was a competitor, he knows how to study, he comes from a really good program at Georgia and he’s a well-rounded kid.”
I always root for the smaller guys, I don’t know why— seeing as I am a 6-2 guy myself— but Boykin is showing the kind of cover talent and leaping ability that turns his 5-9 height into a non-issue… I have no doubt that Boykin could dunk a basketball over me.
Boykin’s edge was clear from the moment he reported to the team in April, immediately after being taken in the fourth round of the NFL Draft. He knew he could cover and he knew he could return kickoffs.
All the first two days of camp has served to do is build his confidence. “It really motivates me, knowing that I can come in and contribute right away,” he said. “As a rookie, you really don’t know what to expect. And for they to have that confidence in me, in a way it shows they expect big things out of me and it makes me expect more out of myself.”
At 5-foot-9, 182 pounds, Boykin’s career will essentially be defined by how he can measure up to bigger, stronger opponents. So far, so good. The attention to technique is there.
“In college, you kind of key on those technique detail things as a weekly practice,” Boykin said, “but in the NFL you have to actually read those things every single play, and it’s a little bit different. It’s just paying attention to detail. So every day I’m kind of learning other things and going through my checks before each play. And I think if you continue to do that, it will become a habit. … I’ll definitely get better throughout camp.”
Boykin may feel the same way about his kickoff-return ability, though there can be no determination until he’s gone through some preseason games, since the Eagles don’t do live special-team drills or scrimmages in training camp (or any other portion of the season, for that matter).
So for now, the coaches can only project Boykin as a candidate to be the primary kickoff returner, no matter how much better he might look than anyone else.
“It all depends on how they do in the [preseason games],” special teams coordinator Bobby April said. “because out here we’re not live, we’re not taking it to the ground. We’re not going to be hit and everything is not at full speed.”
At this point, Boykin has a much better chance of returning kicks than punts, according to April. “That’s what he was most successful doing in college,” he said. “Now he did do some punt returns, but he wasn’t the primary punt returner. … So how he goes through, the confidence level he shows, how he charts our catching punts during practice, is going to be a big factor, because you have to secure that ball.”
Boykin must prove he can play defense first, however, before he can get on the field as a returner, because the Eagles on game days can rarely afford to dress backups who aren’t versatile.
Boykin is soaking in as much as possible in this traditional 2 and a half-day head start coach Andy Reid gives the rookies before the veterans report Wednesday afternoon. “The learning part is the most important, in my opinion,” Boykin said. “Everybody can go out there and play and hit and do things like that. But when you’ve got to learn it and carry it over to the field and play as fast as everybody else coming in who’s been here, the vets who’ve been here five, 10 years have the advantage… it’s tough.
But as Boykin has repeatedly demonstrated with his words and actions, he has confidence… “The more confidence you have at this game, you play at a higher level,” Zordich said. “I truly believe that. To have that confidence, especially for his position … is important. You’re going to make mistakes, you’re going to get beat, you’re going to get burned, and you’ve got to be able to have the ability to totally forget about it and go play the next play. And that’s the kind of confidence he has.”
Whoooo! That kind of talk fires me up! Bring on the regulars…let’s get this season started!