By Joseph Santoliquito
Philadelphia, PA (CBS)—The thought button is off. Brandon Boykin no longer needs that millisecond it takes to decide where to go, how to react, his positioning. The process comes in one wonderful flow right now—just the way it used to be when he starred at Georgia, just the way it used to be when he was a supremely confident cornerback.
Boykin, the 5-foot-10, 185-pound fourth-round pick in 2012, has a chance to be an impact player for the Eagles in his second season. With Cary Williams and Bradley Fletcher tentatively penciled in right now as the Eagles’ starting cornerbacks, Boykin falls to the third corner on the depth chart, on the field in nickel situations.
His true aim is to start. He’s looked tremendous in camp so far, breaking on the ball, staying with DeSean Jackson, possibly the fastest player in the NFL, and taking great angles. Above all, he’s not hesitating. Boykin is reacting when the ball is in the air, or when a receiver makes a cut.
He’s four pounds heavier than he was last season, but a lot stronger. And he’s armed with knowledge that as a rookie he had to intake in gulps.
“I feel a lot more comfortable, and I think you can tell, you can tell in how I play and how fast I react to certain things,” Boykin said. “It’s really just the experience, being able to see everything last year, and this year being my second camp, it’s really like night and day from the speed standpoint.”
Like back at Georgia. Wearing the black and red, playing in the SEC.
“It’s funny, I was talking to my brother the other day and I mentioned to him I feel like I’m back in college,” said Boykin, who is working on an on-line class in the fall before he graduates with a degree in journalism from Georgia next summer. “I have my swagger back and I feel I can make plays and let my athletic ability just show. I know where to be and I know what to expect, even though we’re in a new defense.”
Boykin, whose game is speed and a pass disruptor as a shut-down corner, will occasionally be asked to take up a new role in defensive coordinator Bill Davis’ hybrid 3-4 defensive scheme.
“I think I have a chance to start, that’s every corner’s goal on this team, to be a starting corner,” Boykin said. ”The coaches made it a point of telling everybody when they first got here that nobody’s spot was guaranteed, just because you have guys that signed as free agents and signed contracts. That means nothing. That’s my mindset. I’m coming out here every day to compete and try my best.”
One of Boykin’s biggest challenges to himself is to stay focused, despite fatigue. It’s a mantra Chip Kelly has espoused since he first arrived as the Eagles head coach.
“I’ve been working on my fundamentals even when I’m tired, because once the game hits, you always have to rely on your fundamentals,” Boykin said. “I want to look good on film. The NFL speed is a totally different speed, and I feel I’ve made a big jump from last year to this year. I put on four pounds, but I always look bigger than people think.”
Boykin is going to be asked to provide more run support and will have an opportunity to blitz. It’s more physical than the role he played in last year’s mishmash defensive scheme.
Boykin wants to raise the “inner hammer” within, looking to come up and blast a running back or deliver a vicious blow on a sack. He relishes the opportunity to fill a void that hasn’t been in the Eagles’ secondary since Brian Dawkins left.
That’s what Boykin will be asked to do in this scheme.
“I want to incorporate the physical side into my game, because people don’t expect someone my size to come up and lay a big hit on them,” Boykin said. “If you’re a fast guy, you can jump, you can defend passes, all of that stuff, but when you incorporate that physical side of it, you’ll pretty much be the whole package. I love to do that. Realistically, I wish I was a bigger guy, a linebacker, because I love to just smash people all of the time. When given the chance, I’ll stick my head in and do it.”
Joseph Santoliquito is a contributing sports blogger for CBS Philly.