If it weren't for YouTube and a recent up-close look, Brandon Boykin's claim that he has a 43-inch vertical leap could sound like hyperbole.
To put that number into perspective, the highest a defensive back went at the NFL combine in February was 39 1/2 inches. Julius Erving was said to have a 41-inch vertical leap.
The 5-foot-9 Boykin did not have the opportunity to reach such heights at the combine because he had suffered a broken leg a month earlier in the Senior Bowl. But the Eagles cornerback, whose slam-dunk contest wins can be viewed on the Internet, said Wednesday that one of his jumps before the injury was measured at 43 inches.
During a practice two weeks ago, Boykin displayed that impressive elevation when a Mike Kafka pass appeared destined to float just over the rookie. But he backpedaled, shot out of his shoes, and grabbed the football with both hands near its apex. The ball fell out during the landing, but Boykin's leap drew a reaction.
"As a defensive back, when the ball's in the air it's very important to elevate at the highest point and try and go get it," Boykin said. "For somebody like me that's 5-9, having to play that long ball, people would probably think the receiver would have that advantage."
That often was not the case during Boykin's four years at Georgia. Despite falling to the fourth round of the draft, partially because of that broken leg and missing the combine, Boykin has looked capable of transferring his dominance in college to the pros.
He already is second on the depth chart as the nickel cornerback - behind Joselio Hanson and ahead of Brandon Hughes - and it could be only a matter of training camp before Boykin bounds into first.
"I know I can do it, but at the same time it's going to be a challenge," Boykin said. "We've got Joselio, who's a seasoned vet that's been doing this for nine, 10 years since I've been, like, in middle school."
Hanson actually has been the Eagles' primary slot corner for the last six years. Last season, however, he played more in the dime than the nickel defense because the Eagles needed a spot for Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie.
Hanson still lined up in the slot on many occasions, but the ambiguity of his role seemed to affect his performance and he often struggled. When Rodgers-Cromartie moved back outside after the April trade of Asante Samuel, it became fairly clear that the Eagles were going to draft a corner to play inside.
Many draft analysts gave Boykin a second-round grade, but the Eagles took him in the fourth. He could be the steal of their draft class, although the 30-year-old Hanson is trying to keep the 21-year-old from swiping his job. Last month, Hanson unabashedly told reporters that he wouldn't go out of his way to help his rival.
"We do have a good relationship off the field," Boykin said. "If I've had any questions, he's definitely helped me out. As far as competition on the field, we're both definitely trying to get that spot, and I understand where he's coming from."
Both are similar in size, but Boykin is a bulky 5-9, 182 pounds. He's quick, aggressive, and, of course, athletic. He said Eagles coaches have been telling him that he can't rely only on his athleticism in the NFL, though. He admitted that his technique needs improvement.
"When you're pressing or jamming somebody, just keeping your hands up," Boykin said. "Just little things like that take seconds away from you being there to bat the ball down."
If Boykin is to win the nickel spot, he has to prove that he is just as adept at stopping the run as he is at defending against the pass. Hanson always has been one of the Eagles' best tackling cornerbacks. Boykin received good grades for his tackling in college, but this spring's non-contact practices haven't afforded him the opportunity to showcase that particular skill.
"You're pretty much a linebacker," Boykin said of playing in the slot. "Being able to make tackles in the run game, and also covering, it takes a special player, a special athlete."
Extra points. Defensive tackle Fletcher Cox was excused for the second day of minicamp. He was in transit Wednesday after attending his cousin's funeral on Tuesday. . . . Defensive end Vinny Curry (ankle) sat out of practice again.