Eagles Retrospective: Brandon Boykin Looked Like a Pro Bowler in the Making

Philadelphia Eagles fans have seen several one year wonders throughout their fandom.

Michael Vick was tremendous for one season, before regressing horribly in the years that followed. Carson Wentz was another. Though statistically he played just fine after the 2017 Super Bowl season, he never recaptured that same magic.

Then we have former nickel corner Brandon Boykin, was was primed to become a Pro Bowl talent after his second full season in the NFL.

The Eagles spent a fourth-round pick on Boykin back in the 2012 NFL Draft. Standing at just 5-foot-9, Boykin was seen as a nickel corner only upon entering the NFL, but he had some potential as a return man.

He showed real promise as a return man during his time at Georgia.

During his rookie season, that’s where Boykin spent most of his playing time. On 45 kick returns in 2012, Boykin racked up 1,037 total yards (23 yards per return). His 1,037 returns yards was second in the NFC and seventh in the entire NFL.

Despite being the team’s primary returner, Boykin still saw some run in the slot. 2012 was a rough year for the Eagles. Injuries piled up on both sides of the ball, ‘The Dream Team’ debacle was starting to really take its toll, and Andy Reid seemingly lost the locker room. Boykin was thrusted into action because, well, the team sucked and it made more sense to give the younger players playing time as opposed to relying on aging veterans.

Nevertheless, Boykin played quite well in his 508 defensive snaps that season. He gave up three touchdowns through the air, but only allowed 27 completions on 50 targets (54 completion percentage). Pro Football Focus gave Boykin an overall defensive grade of 71.2 for his efforts as a rookie.

Entering year two, Boykin was the primary starter in the nickel and he didn’t waste any time making an impact. In the first game of the Chip Kelly era, Boykin picked off Washington quarterback Robert Griffin III to seal the victory for Philly. He snagged five more that season, including this game/division clinching interception against the Dallas Cowboys in Week 17.

Boykin’s ability as a returner shined through whenever he was able to snag an interception. Against Green Bay in Week 10, Boykin picked up off Scott Tolzien in the end zone and ran it out for 76 yards. The week prior to the Dallas game, he intercepted Jay Cutler of the Bears and returned it 54 yards for his one and only touchdown of his career.

On the year, Boykin allowed a completion percentage of 58.4 and a passer rating of 64.8 when targeted. He earned a PFF defensive grade of 88.7 and a coverage grade of 91.1, both placing inside the top-five for all cornerbacks that season.

From his ability to play well in both man and zone coverage to his playmaking acumen, Boykin was a breath of fresh air in the Eagles secondary. No longer was the team relying on overpaid corners like Nnamdi and DRC. No, the organization had found a young player who they could build their secondary around for years to come. Hell, Boykin’s six interceptions in 2012 was just one less than DRC and Nnamdi tallied combined in their two years with the team.

It was all coming together — until it didn’t.

Injuries began to pile up and Boykin was unceremoniously traded just one year removed from his six-interception outing in 2012. He spent a year in Pittsburgh and then signed with Carolina, where he was cut before the season even began. It was revealed shortly after his release from Carolina that Boykin may have had severe hip issues that caused him to keep getting released.

Steelers defensive back at the time, Carnell Lake, spoke to fans back in 2016 at a men’s fantasy camp about Boykin, stating that the reason was was released by Philly was due to “a degenerative hip condition” where one leg was longer than the other. The coach went on to say, “Our doctors didn’t pick up on it. He could hardly run. I felt bad for him.”

Boykin’s camp never confirmed this. In fact, they actually denied it. ESPN’s Vince McClure wrote an article back in 2016 on why Atlanta passed on Boykin during the free agency period. Per his article, “Talk circulated regarding Boykin having hip issues, but the source indicated Boykin is fine and the hip is not a factor.”

The rumors continued circulating around multiple outlets and after teams around the league starting picking up on it, Boykin never played another snap. His 2015 season with Pittsburgh would be the last time be ever saw an NFL field.

Unfortunately, injuries are just a part of the game. Most injuries will heal with time and rehab, but when a player has a degenerative issue, more often than not it’s nearly impossible to overcome.

Boykin had all the makings of a Pro Bowl cornerback for the Eagles. He represented a new wave of youth in the Eagles secondary — something the organization has struggled to find ever since. Sadly, we’re left to wonder what Boykin could have been.


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