BENGHAZI. The Sixers' tanking strategy. Why Brandon Boykin doesn't start outside at corner for the Eagles.
Three much-discussed topics on which little seems left to say.
"That's 2 years running with this story, you know what I'm saying? It's getting real old for me," Boykin said after yesterday's OTA sessions. "I'm just going to continue to be the best slot in the NFL. I feel like I am. I feel like my statistics show that."
Boykin, 24, said he met with Eagles coach Chip Kelly during the offseason and was told the coaching staff wants him to compete for a starting job outside.
"He's the coach, he's a man of his word. I'm going to hold him accountable to that, just like he does us," Boykin said. "I'm going to go out there and ball and do what I'm supposed to do. Once camp hits, we'll see who outperforms whoever, and I guess you guys can worry about the rest."
Asked if he thinks his role will be different this season, or if it will stay the same, and he'll play mostly inside, Boykin said: "Probably the same, just keeping it 100."
Indeed, Nolan Carroll, last year's dime corner, and the guy who moved outside for last season's finale when Kelly and defensive coordinator Bill Davis finally threw in the towel on Bradley Fletcher, seems to have a leg up on the one job that's available there. (Boykin isn't starting over Byron Maxwell, the $63 million free-agent signing, unless Maxwell gets injured.) Boykin is playing outside on the second team right now, then moving inside in nickel with the first unit.
Carroll is 6-1, 205, and has started outside before, with the Dolphins. Boykin is 5-10, 185 and has excelled in the slot since arriving as a fourth-round pick from Georgia in 2012. Many Eagles fans grew frustrated over the past few seasons, watching Boykin remain the nickel corner while Fletcher and Cary Williams often struggled.
Boykin was drafted by the Andy Reid-Howie Roseman regime. He is one of just 14 holdovers from the Reid era on the 90-man roster. As you just might have heard by now, Kelly has exacting specifications at some positions, including corner, where he wants tall, long-armed athletes with the strength and leverage to press big receivers. Boykin almost certainly would not have been drafted by Kelly and current player personnel VP Ed Marynowitz.
Now Boykin is in the final year of his rookie contract. Boykin said yesterday there have been no discussions toward a new deal. Even with Walter Thurmond moving inside to safety, the Eagles have nine players on the roster who are primarily corners, though three of them - Jaylen Watkins, JaCorey Shepherd and Randall Evans - are just given the roster notation "defensive back."
"Somebody gotta go, right?" Boykin said. "We'll see what happens in the fall."
Like inside linebacker Mychal Kendricks, another talented 2012 draftee who might not fit the Kelly parameters, Boykin has been a subject of trade rumors this offseason. He said yesterday he does not want to be traded.
As Boykin also noted yesterday, just because Kelly and Davis don't seem to like him outside, that doesn't mean they don't like him at all.
"I think me still being here means something good," Boykin said. "If anything, that they believe I can play. Whether it's outside or inside, I'm doing something right."
The NFL template is changing, with many teams in nickel or dime packages more than half the time. That has been Kelly's main explanation for not moving Boykin outside, that he and Davis consider their nickel corner a starter.
The league's salary structure doesn't really reflect that, though. According to Overthecap.com, the top 14 average corner salaries are all paid to established outside starters; No. 15, Denver's Chris Harris, made his reputation as a nickel guy but started outside last season. His 5-year, $42.5 million deal, signed in December, probably reflects his new status, more than how much the Broncos valued him in the slot.
There is every reason to think Boykin probably has value to the Eagles this season, but like Jeremy Maclin a year ago, he might be headed into free agency afterward.
"There's a reason why I'm still here - literally the last [defensive back] left of the beginning [group here when Kelly arrived]. But I know I can play, and I think they know the same," Boykin said. "All the other measurements, or whatever they want, is fine. Wherever I'm at on the field, I'm going to make the play that I'm supposed to make.
"Do what I'm supposed to do this year, free-agency hits, or whatever . . . If I make the plays I'm supposed to make, I'll get the chance. I'll get the money, I'll get all of that stuff that's supposed to happen."
Though there are plenty of other teams that have the same ideas about outside corners that Kelly and Davis follow, there also are teams that see things differently. Boykin referenced his fellow Georgia alum, 5-8 corner Tim Jennings, a two-time Pro Bowler for the Bears.
"If you can play, you can play," Boykin said. "[Being taller] helps in certain situations - fade balls, jump balls. But if you've got the athleticism, the 'quicks' to play outside, it doesn't matter. Technique is going to override."