From a sixth-round pick in 2011 to a six-year contract in 2015, Byron Maxwell has come a long way in his NFL career.
After rising through the ranks with Seattle from a special teams player to a valuable piece of the "Legion of Boom" secondary, Maxwell signed with the Eagles this past offseason, ready to play for Chip Kelly with a chip on his shoulder as he looks to prove himself as a top-flight corner in the NFL.
His first regular-season game will be a challenging first exam. The Atlanta Falcons are led by quarterback Matt Ryan and feature talented receivers Julio Jones and Roddy White on the outside. Maxwell says that he and the rest of the Eagles' secondary know the task at hand and are ready to step up to the plate and show the rest of the NFL what they can do.
"Obviously they have three really good guys, so it's going to be a great test for us," Maxwell said. "We have to play ball with technique, focus on eye discipline and we'll be alright."
The #Eagles hit the NovaCare practice fields for their first practice of the regular season. View the full gallery here...
One of the biggest questions heading into the game will be whether or not the Eagles elect to have Maxwell shadow Jones, who caught five passes for 123 yards and a touchdown against the Eagles in 2012. If the two are matched up head-to-head, the game will give Maxwell a chance to break out as a "number one corner," but Maxwell is focusing on team goals rather than individual ones in his Eagles debut.
"To be honest, I'm just playing ball," Maxwell said. "If this team wins and we don't give up any touchdowns, that's a great day. That's what I'm (focusing on) at the end of the day, helping to win championships, so if anything, this team is making a statement that we're here and we're trying to win a championship, that's what I'm thinking about."
Maxwell knows a thing or two about championship football, winning a Super Bowl ring with Seattle at the end of the 2013 season. He sees a lot of that Seattle toughness here with the Eagles, and he believes that the Eagles' defense could take a large leap forward in 2015.
"I think we can be very good," Maxwell said. "We have a lot of guys who go after the ball. We can be ballhawks out there. That's really what it's all about at the end of the day, just getting turnovers and making plays when you're out there.
"The reason why I'm here is to force turnovers and not allow explosive plays, so that's going to be a key and a big test for us, but we're ready to go."
Maxwell is not only taking on the new role of being the centerpiece of a secondary, but he's also taking on another role, that of being a leader. With younger players in the secondary like Eric Rowe and Denzel Rice, Maxwell has been making sure to help bring the rookies along.
"You can't get too high and you can't get too low, because at the end of the day, it's 'next play,'" Maxwell said. "Even when you make an interception or force a turnover, it's next play because the game is still going. That play could be the play that determines the game. I relay that all the time (to the younger players), that next play mentality."