It was 1st and 10 from the Dallas Cowboys’ 32 yardline. There was 1:49 left on the clock in the fourth quarter, with the NFC East crown on the line. Dallas quarterback Kyle Orton drops back to pass against a blitz, then thows a hot route to his slot receiver, Miles Austin. Austin ran a dig pattern, but Philadelphia Eagles cornerback Brandon Boykin jumped the route in man coverage and intercepted the pass. Boykin (5’9 and 183 pounds) effectively ended the Cowboys’ season by baiting Orton into that throw. Even with a huge size disadvantage (Austin is 6’2 and 216 pounds), Boykin was able to allow his natural playmaking ability to impact the game at a crucial time. It is for this reason that he should be allowed to start on the outside at cornerback for the Eagles this upcoming season.
Boykin led Philadelphia with six interceptions in 2013, which is one more than the two starting cb’s Bradley Fletcher and Carey Williams had combined. Those 6 int’s were almost one third of the total for the entire team. For a defensive unit that struggled against the pass, giving up over 4,600 yards through the air, turnover creation would be a saving grace. Boykin has the ability and moxie to disrupt an opponent’s aerial assault with his route recognition, cat-like quickness, and tremendous ball skill. A player like that should play every snap available.
The counter argument to that is that big people smash little people, and that at his size Boykin should be relegated to his role as the slot cb. However, that argument is flawed. Boykin has a tremendous vertical leap, and is very adept at timing his jump to defend 50/50 balls. He is also a solid tackler in both the run and pass game, as evidenced by his 47 total tackles in limited snaps. With more snaps he would also increase his 17 passes defended, again affecting the opponent’s ability to sustain drives. Why would you want to limit his impact on a game to only nickel package situations? Teams thew the ball over 600 times against the Eagles poor secondary, and a lot of those passes came against the base defense. So put the best eleven defenders on the field at all times to improve the ability to get off the field without giving up points and field position. The only size that matters is the size of your lead when the game ends.
Former Tampa Bay Buccaneer’s corneback Ronde Barber also excelled playing in the slot in nickel situations, but he would only assume that role when facing multiple receiver sets, or down and distance challenges. Barber was still able to utilize his talents to affect the game by starting on the outside in the base defense. Philadelphia would benefit by doing the same with Boykin, and having either Fletcher or Willams come in to assume that outside cb role in those situations when Boykin moves inside. Boykin excelled in the best college football conference playing both in the slot and outside, and he faced many big, fast, physical receivers during that span. His play last year has earned him the right to be considered for a starting role. I believe with more snaps he could be a Pro Bowl caliber performer in 2014, and this defense could use that on every down.