Not even the SEC could prepare cornerback Brandon Boykin for what he was going to face in the NFL.
A fourth-round pick of the Eagles out of Georgia in 2012, Boykin won the slot cornerback job last season. His introduction to the NFL came in the form of battling receivers such as Detroit's Calvin Johnson, Arizona's Larry Fitzgerald, Baltimore's Anquan Boldin and New York's Victor Cruz. There was no hiding the rookie in the slot. While the 5-10 Boykin surrenders seven inches to someone like Johnson, Boykin has a vertical leap of over 40 inches as his ammunition to fend off the big-framed pass catchers.
In 16 games last season, Boykin played 526 snaps per Pro Football Focus. According to Stats Inc., Boykin allowed 20 completions on 45 targets for 291 yards and a pair of touchdowns. He was graded by Pro Football Focus as the best defensive back on the team last year. Among defensive players targeted at least 40 times last year, Boykin's 20 completions allowed ranked as the fourth fewest in the NFL and the 44.4 completion percentage was seventh best. As the primary kickoff returner, Boykin's 1,037 return yards ranked as the fifth most ever by an Eagles rookie.
As Boykin prepares for his second season, the experience gained as a rookie helped tremendously with the mental aspect of his game.
"It's huge, just as far as confidence goes. Being a defensive back, I went against some of the greatest receivers in the league last year and that really did do a lot for my confidence," Boykin said. "Coming into my second year, it helps knowing I can compete with those guys and be even better. Being a second-year player, I can focus on my technique and fundamentals more now that I know what to expect and the speed of the game."
Boykin made the transition from college to the NFL a year ago. This year, he'll adjust to an array of new teammates and a coaching staff. The hybrid scheme the Eagles are planning to run with the front seven doesn't dramatically alter Boykin's responsibilities. The Eagles did, however, sign a pair of experienced cornerbacks in free agency in Cary Williams and Bradley Fletcher. They also drafted Jordan Poyer out of Oregon State in the seventh round.
"The secondary is really fast. Our team is fast. We've got to have athletes back there," Boykin said. "I definitely feel like everybody can play multiple positions."
In addition to getting ready for the 2013 season, Boykin has also honed his craft off the field in a different entertainment arena. A journalism major at Georgia, Boykin wants to be a sports broadcaster after his playing days are over. He interned with WSB-TV in Georgia and covered his alma mater's pro day. In Philadelphia, he spent a day with WPVI (6abc) and had the opportunity to work in front of the camera and learn some tricks of the trade. Much like football, Boykin said it takes plenty of practice and preparation to work in the media field.
"I don't know if it's the lights or knowing that you're live," Boykin said. "It's a lot harder than people really do think."
Following the Organized Team Activities, Boykin is headed to Pensacola, Fla. to work on speed training prior to the start of camp later this summer. After an introduction to the league like no other last year, Boykin knows what he must do to be ready for the rigors of the NFL in his second season.
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