The Eagles revamped the cornerback position this past offseason by adding cornerbacks Cary Williams and Bradley Fletcher, and re-signing Trevard Lindley to join a group already comprised of Brandon Boykin, Brandon Hughes, Curtis Marsh and Eddie Whitley. The team also added some depth through the NFL Draft, selecting Jordan Poyer in the seventh round. But as the preseason progressed, the injury bug made its way into the secondary. Marsh and Hughes are both sidelined with hand injuries, and Whitley was waived after injuring his knee against the Jaguars. The Eagles will need their young cornerbacks to emerge as key role players now more than ever.
Boykin had arguably the best Training Camp of any defensive player on the roster. He has proven to be a strong option for the Eagles at either outside or slot corner. According to Boykin, the Eagles secondary has been starting to take shape despite the injuries, and he credits his new head coach.
"I feel good (about where we are)," Boykin said. "I think the one thing that's helped us the most is the music that (Chip Kelly) has put in the practices. It has allowed us to communicate louder than we normally would on a regular basis. So once we get on the field, it's just clicking. Normally, that takes a lot of time to come. It probably takes a couple games in the regular season, but we have that now.
"A lot of big plays happened (last year) because of miscommunication or people not really knowing what the other guy is going to do. That's the first thing, is making that communication and gaining that trust from each other and I think we're building that now."
Though it's never easy to see teammates go down, Boykin believes the Eagles can move on from losing players fairly quickly because of how much time the secondary players have already spent with one another on the field.
"We've been doing this since OTAs," Boykin said. "Since the first day we got here, we all were together and we've been doing it every single day since then. The amount of reps that we get in one day, you add that to how many days we've been out there, I think that's like a year's worth of experience for everybody before the season actually starts. We're all comfortable. We all know each other's strengths and weaknesses and how each other plays. Like I said, that trust is getting there."
There is one member of the cornerback crew that has not been practicing with the group since OTAs. Poyer missed Eagles OTAs because of an NFL rule that says a player cannot participate in team activities until after his college's graduation date. Despite the late start, Poyer's transition to the NFL has been coming along smoothly.
"I think OTAs, first of all, not being able to come - now that I sit back and look at it- was kind of a big part that I missed, as far as getting the speed down of the game," Poyer said. "I think it took me a little while, but I think right now I'm starting to really get the feel of the game. ... I'm able to just play now, I understand the defense. There are still a lot of things that I can get better at. I'm not saying I'm perfect, but I'm feeling a lot more comfortable within the defense and being able to just play like I did in college."
Poyer understands that his future with the Eagles remains up in the air, so the rookie isn't taking anything for granted.
"I'm never going to be complacent," he said. "I always feel like there's something that I can improve on. I got a lot of love from the game that I played the other night (in Jacksonville), but at the end of the day, I still know that there are a lot of things that I can work on personally and get better on."
Another member of the secondary understands how important it is to constantly improve. Lindley has been released twice by the Eagles, yet he has continued to fight his way back onto the roster. Lindley knows that no matter what the roster situation is, he still has to give his all when the opportunity presents itself.
"I just have to go out there when I get my chance," Lindley said. "I go out there and play to the best of my ability. … I still would have the same mindset if we still had everybody (healthy) on the team. I have to play the best that I can and show up on every play."
As the Eagles enter their final preseason game against the New York Jets on Thursday, they know that the regular season opener is just around the corner. The depth of the secondary will be tested as the season progresses, but the Eagles corners are taking things one day at a time.
"Our defense, it's all coming along," said Poyer. "Every single practice. Every single game."
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