BRANDON BOYKIN was a decent player last year and is a better player this year, but a lot of that can get lost when you are playing the slot on a defense that allows yards by the mile. It can be hard to see past the scoreboard sometimes and everybody understands why.

Then you have the game Boykin had on Sunday against Victor Cruz, of the New York Giants, handcuffing the Giants' deep threat and coming up with an athletic interception besides, and recognition is suddenly measured by the torrent. You ask Boykin whether he has been hearing from a lot of people - after that kind of a game for him personally and, more important, after a win in which the Eagles' defense played well - and he begins to nod before you finish the question.

"It's kind of like that in this sport," he said. "You can be playing really well and nobody will notice. Then, when you do it against a player of a certain caliber, everybody notices."

The people at Pro Football Focus have calculated that Boykin is tied for first in the NFL in passer rating allowed from the slot. The rating when quarterbacks throw at Boykin's man is only 30.8, which is a very low number.

Boykin smiles when you tell him, but only for about a second. Then it is back into the business of being a professional football player in an interview, all about "working hard" and "improved technique" and "better route recognition" and, well, you know. They all can't be DeSean Jackson, who offered Tampa Bay cornerback Darrelle Revis a challenge yesterday, saying, "I don't think [Revis] can run with me."

Whatever Boykin says, it is becoming clearer by the day that he is becoming the Eagles' best cover guy. The issue is, he plays only when the other team has at least three receivers on the field, not two. Against the Giants, that meant he was on the field 62 percent of the time. He was out there for 45 plays, which is a lot. But there were 73 defensive snaps in the game for the Eagles - and, if you accept this line of argument, their best cover guy was on the bench for 28 of them.

Bill Davis, the Eagles' defensive coordinator, had no problem with the question about getting Boykin on the field more. But he said he does not want to upset the good thing the Eagles have going right now with Boykin playing in the slot.

"I think he's doing a great job at nickel," Davis said. "He's really growing. He can even get better at nickel. There's a lot of little things that he's growing into the position.

"When you ask a man to go out to corner and the nickel, you're really asking a lot. And I think right now, we're growing Brandon in the right way, and I'd hate to kind of ruin that development or that growth a little bit by doubling him. And I'm happy with the corners outside. They're doing a nice job."

The corners who play on the outside, all the time, are Bradley Fletcher and Cary Williams. Fletcher, Davis said, is especially calm on deep balls thrown his way - and this confidence is something very obvious to Davis on film. As for Williams, he is a wild card in every sense of the word, who can hit incredible high notes (when he hits them, and when he isn't hanging on to the guy he is covering).

Boykin, meanwhile, has become kind of a multiple weapon on the inside - covering, blitzing, playing that linebacker-ish spot at times, hard to categorize or identify.

"Brandon brings a speed and athleticism in that nickel spot that we like, and we can drop him or bring him," Davis said. "And sometimes he's the fourth rusher, sometimes he's part of a blitz package. Sometimes we bluff them and drop him back. So we've got a nice little package that we're growing with him."

His height - the most generous 5-10 in the history of tape measures - will always be held against him, even if the limited results suggest it is not a handicap when he gets a chance to cover outside receivers. It will happen someday - he is too good - but as they try to get something built here, Davis is being cautious. For his part, Boykin says the idea of playing more is not something he thinks much about.

"I can't be worrying about that," he said. "All I can do is worry about the job I already have, and that's playing the slot."

He is doing it as well as anyone right now. With this defense, that is worth celebrating.

On Twitter: @theidlerich

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