Philadelphia Eagles special teams coach Bobby April announced yesterday that Brandon Boykin -- a rookie cornerback from Georgia -- is in line to start as the team’s kickoff returner.
Boykin -- last season’s Paul Hornung Award winner, as the most versatile player in college football -- slipped into the fourth round of the NFL draft after he broke his leg covering a kick in the Senior Bowl, which prevented him from participating in the NFL combine and other pre-draft workouts.
But he told me recently that Philadelphia was a perfect landing spot because, after participating in two minicamps, he realized he would have the opportunity to contribute immediately as a kick returner and nickelback.
“Everybody knows I dropped in the draft a little bit because of my injury, but I definitely ended up in a good place, in a good position to be able to contribute right away. That’s really all I could ask for,” Boykin said. “Hopefully I’ll go up there and do what I’m supposed to do and be able to play.”
April compared Boykin’s return skills to those of former Pro Bowler Tyrone Hughes, whom he coached with the New Orleans Saints in the 1990s.
While he hasn’t yet enjoyed the opportunity to flash the game-breaking return ability that he did at Georgia -- Boykin is the only player in SEC history with three 100-yard plays in his career -- Boykin knows that time will come soon. Early on, coaches mostly evaluate return candidates by their technique in catching kicks, but the Eagles will play their first preseason game next Thursday, Aug. 9, against Pittsburgh, and that’s when Boykin must perform to keep the job.
“We catch and stuff like that, but we really don’t put the scheme in,” Boykin said of minicamp. “So really the first action I’m going to see is that first game. That’s kind of good in a way, though, because you can show what you can do on a game-type feel.”