Early Birds: Brandon Boykin's interception totals, Earl Thomas' draft day, and forced fumbles
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1) Brandon Boykin has one interception this season. He had four at this point last season, and finished the season with six. That was tied for second most in the NFL.
The Eagles' coaching staff has emphasized that it's unrealistic to measure Nick Foles against his 27-touchdown, 2-interception campaign from 2013, and the same should be true when evaluating Boykin and his six interceptions from one year ago.
"Especially for me as a slot guy," Boykin said. "I don't even worry about it. That's more so for fans and that's typical. Any time you don't do better or up to par with what you've done, people thing you've fallen off."
Boykin, who is the Eagles' nickel cornerback, played 51 percent of the defensive snaps last season. He is playing in only 43 percent of the defensive snaps this season. That means he's the field for around 470 fewer plays than the starting cornerbacks. He's in coverage for 217 fewer passing plays than Bradley Fletcher, according to Pro Football Focus. That's a big number of interception opportunities Boykin watches from the sideline.
Boykin said he does not measure his season by the interception total. His evaluation is based on his technique and limiting the amount of yards he's allowed.
"I feel I'm more consistent with my technique," Boykin said. "As far as passes being thrown at me and opportunities I do get, I make the plays. A big thing for me is not giving any yard after catch. And I feel like I've done a good job getting people on the ground when they do make a play."
Boykin has allowed only 138 yards after a catch in 13 games this season, according to Pro Football Focus. That's 10.6 yards per game. He has not allowed a catch of more than 30 yards this season and has kept his receivers out of the end zone. The high interception number isn't there, but Boykin sounded pleased with how he's played.
2) On Monday, coach Chip Kelly called Seahawks safety Earl Thomas the best safety in the league. Thomas could have been an Eagles safety – and he actually thought for a moment he was going to play for the Eagles.
Thomas was one of the top safeties in the 2010 draft, when the Eagles needed a safety. The Eagles traded up in the draft to the No. 13 pick, and the television commentators thought Thomas was the target. Instead, the Eagles picked Brandon Graham. Thomas went one pick later to Seattle.
"They said Earl Thomas right here, and I'm like: 'OK, the Eagles, Philadelphia,' " Thomas said in January, remembering his draft day. "And then they said, 'Brandon Graham.' And then I got this call from Seattle."
Thomas is a three-time All-Pro. Graham has developed into a productive pass rusher and could be a sought-after free agent this winter. He has matched a career high with 5.5 sacks this season. He's proving worthy of his draft choice. However, it's likely not enough to forget what could have been with Thomas, who said in January he still heard from Eagles fans on Twitter.
"A lot of people from Philly are like, 'Oh, my God! Every time we see him, he could be in our uniform,' or if they see me in the Pro Bowl or something, they say he's a Pro Bowler," Thomas said.
3) In two seasons under Kelly and defensive coordinator Bill Davis, the Eagles' defense has shown a noticeable ability to force fumbles. They have 12 fumble recoveries, which is second in the NFL. They had 12 last season, which was tied for fifth in the league. They also led the league in forced fumbles last year, and were third last season.
Those numbers are over 29 games, which is a large enough sample size to realize it is not luck. The Eagles emphasize strip tackling and swarming the ball. It's paying off with turnovers.
"I think it starts with they're playing really, really good run defense," Kelly said. "There are a lot of guys around the ball. A lot of guys are running to the ball. They're playing with great effort. Guys are doing a good job when they get in there of securing the tackle, trying to get it stripped and trying to get the ball out.
"When you have that many guys around the ball, usually the ball is going to bounce to one of your guys. It's been a group effort on defense. I think all 11 guys are playing at a real good tempo right now."