Boykin cleared to play, hopes to boost struggling secondary
Eagles DBs know they have a handful in the Bears triple receiving threat.
THE EAGLES' secondary still doesn't match up well against the deepest group of receivers the Eagles will have seen this season, but getting Brandon Boykin back certainly is a step in the right direction.
Boykin, the Eagles' second-year nickel cornerback, suffered a concussion in Sunday's loss at Minnesota, returning a kickoff. That might be why the Birds spent much of the year having Damaris Johnson run straight at tacklers, even though Boykin has better vision - the Eagles' playoff chances could have been stretched out on the dingy Metrodome carpet along with Boykin, given the struggles of the two outside guys, Cary Williams and Brandon Fletcher, and the lack of an experienced backup for the slot. Roc Carmichael said earlier this week that the plan was for him to move up if Boykin was out. Carmichael, a third-year corner who joined the Eagles a few weeks into the season, was excited, but he also was honest about the fact that he's never really played inside, at any level of football.
"That was a freak thing that happened," Boykin said yesterday, when asked whether he was worried, coming back so soon after being concussed. "For the most part, you know how to protect yourself and keep yourself out of harm's way."
Boykin, 23, said he was hit in the knees and "got flipped . . . I went airborne and just kind of landed on - I call it cement, because that turf is very hard in Minnesota."
He landed on his head.
"The face mask came down, hit my nose. I was bleeding," Boykin said. "I didn't really black out; I remember everything that happened. That was a good sign. That was why I felt like I'd be ready to play" after being cleared by an independent neurologist.
Boykin said his only other concussion came in his freshman year at Georgia.
Boykin and the Eagles face an offense that can't be stopped by keying on one player or one facet. The Bears feature a 1,200-yard runner in Matt Forte, along with a trio of big, talented receivers - Brandon Marshall (90 catches, 1,185 yards, 10 touchdowns), Alshon Jeffery (80 catches, 1,265 yards, seven TDs) and tight end Martellus Bennett (59 catches, 659 yards, five TDs). As prolific as the Eagles' passing game has been, their top three receivers, DeSean Jackson, LeSean McCoy and Riley Cooper, are 584 yards and five touchdowns behind the Bears' trio.
Boykin said he expects to see a lot of Marshall (6-4, 230) in the slot.
"I plan on being matched up with him a good bit," said Boykin, who agreed this might be the secondary's toughest total challenge, even if none of these guys is quite Larry Fitzgerald or Calvin Johnson. He said Marshall and Jeffery (6-3, 216) definitely are the most formidable duo.
"You're talking about guys that are 6-3, 6-4 and both playing at a very, very high level," Boykin said. "Normally, you might have two big guys, but one of them's better than the other. I don't really think that's the case. They can throw to either one of 'em, and they're capable of making plays."
Chip Kelly and Nick Foles both have talked about minor mechanical adjustments Foles needs to make, in the wake of last week's up-and-down performance.
"Keep a good base [when on the move]. Keep your left shoulder down and drive the football," Foles said yesterday, when asked what he'd worked on. "Sometimes when there's some pressure in your face, I'll throw off my back foot, my shoulder will raise a little bit, and the ball will sail. I know in that situation, I'll have to sidestep or do something where I can drive the ball downward to where my receiver gets the opportunity to catch the ball."
Colt Anderson (knee) and Kurt Coleman (hamstring) remained sidelined and are unlikely to play Sunday . . . Brad Smith said he had no idea his kickoff return against Minnesota went for 47 yards, until a reporter told him yesterday . . . Chip Kelly said the biggest difference between the NFL and college football is that often in college, the disparity in talent between teams is large. He said almost every week in the NFL, the team that executes better wins, because the talent is much more even, regardless of records. He said he enjoys that challenge.