“When you’re a player, you want to be able to relate to your coach off the field,” Boykin told reporters at St. Vincent College, site of Steelers training camp. “There were times he just didn’t talk to people. You would walk down the hallway, he wouldn’t say anything to you. I’m not saying he’s a racist in any way.”
Okay, that is easy enough to understand.
“I felt a lot of guys in that locker room feel the same way,” Boykin said. “Of course, when you’re in the organization, you’re not going to voice your opinion. For me, I’ve always been a guy of honesty. Not trying to put anybody out in any way, but if you’re honest with me, I’ll be honest with you, and I felt like that honesty wasn’t there all the time.”
How does being ignored in the hallway equal dishonest? I’m lost on that one. Boykin has not expressed himself well. Instead of pointing out a problem that can be addressed, he’s got me all kinds of confused.
Let’s try to understand Boykin for a minute. He comes from a close-knit family. His dad pushed him into sports at a young age and then pushed him to get a degree while at Georgia instead of just trying to get by and focus on football. While at Georgia, Boykin played for Mark Richt, a player-friendly type of coach. Richt’s wife is active with the team and there is somewhat of a family atmosphere down there. Boykin came to the NFL and was coached by Andy Reid, who at that point was a father figure to many of his players.
In comes Chip Kelly who is no one’s idea of a father figure. I’m sure there was a big culture shock with Boykin. He was used to a certain relationship with coaches and he didn’t have that with Kelly.
“With Andy it was more of… especially with me coming in later in his career after he’d built up such a reputation in Philly amongst the players in the locker room, it was kind of like there was an aura around him. You never wanted to be yourself around him. You always had to have this front up and you always had to be ‘Yes sir & yes maam” always on your Ps and Qs. He was a hard man to talk to and be loose around. It was always an uptight conversation whenever I had with him. Whereas with Chip, he’s much more, at this point at least, like one of the guys. He’s still the head coach and you still have respect for him, but he converses with everyone, strikes up conversations and is much more of a loose guy to be around than Andy was.”
Interesting. Kelce felt right at home with him. Who did Kelce play for in college? He spent 2 years with Brian Kelly and 2 with Butch Jones, a pair of intense, aggressive coaches. They’re screamers. Compared to them, Chip probably seemed like Mr. Rogers to Kelce.
Boykin would have preferred a coach who walked the hallways saying “Hey fella” or “What’s up buddy” to his players. Apparently that’s not Kelly’s style.
With race taken out of the equation, Boykin’s comments become largely irrelevant to me. If Chip is walking down the hallway focused on a new wrinkle for a run play instead of who he’s passing, that is just fine with me. Jeff Lurie hired him to run a football team, not be a greeter at Wal-Mart.
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Let’s talk about Boykin the player. He will go to the Steelers and compete for a starting job. They have a very banged-up secondary right now. If Boykin doesn’t play outside, he’ll move back in to Nickelback.
Boykin started on the outside vs the Chargers in Week 2 of 2013. That’s the only game of his Eagles career that I remember him playing as an outside starter. Roc Carmichael started a couple of games at midseason that year. Nolan Carroll started in place of Bradley Fletcher late last year.
Boykin was up and down in the Chargers game. He broke up a pass and stripped a ball from Antonio Gates, but did give up a few catches. He showed promise, but wasn’t so good that you felt he absolutely deserved to be starting. Overall he had a pretty good game, but you have to factor in that he wasn’t going against top receivers (Malcolm Floyd, Eddie Royal, Vincent Brown, Keenan Allen).
I think Boykin has a shot to be an effective starting CB, but it is far from a sure thing. Playing in the slot is very different than playing outside. Think about Dallas. In the slot, you cover Cole Beasley. On the outside, you get Dez Bryant or Terrance Williams. That’s a pretty drastic difference.
There are some really tough slot receivers. Boykin had some tough battles with Victor Cruz over the years. They each won some battles and lost some battles. It won’t be like Boykin will be overwhelmed by outside receivers. Still, there is a big adjustment.
The Steelers are going to incorporate more Cover 2 this year and that’s perfect for Boykin. Plenty of 5-9 corners have had success in that scheme. Guys with good hands and ball skills can thrive, no matter how big they are. In the Eagles scheme, 5-9 CBs aren’t a good fit.
Some people like to point out that Boykin has a good vertical leap. He absolutely does. But that can’t help you all the time. A 6-2 corner with long arms affects a play with his size by just being in the right spot. That length doesn’t change. In order to use leaping ability to affect a play, the CB would need to gather his feet under him and then go up. You can’t always do that when on the run or coming out of a hard cut. Size is constant. Leaping ability isn’t.
I’ll write more about the Eagles love of big CBs, but understand they aren’t being illogical. You and I might disagree with their line of thinking, but there is good reasoning behind why they want what they want.
It will be interesting to see how he does on another team and in another scheme.
I was a Brandon Boykin fan when he was at Georgia. I was thrilled when the Eagles got him in the 4th round. I hope he does well for the Steelers. If he’s on the field more than 60 percent of the snaps, the Eagles get a 4th round pick in return for him.
Chip opened the 2015 Training Camp with a PC and he had plenty of interesting things to say. Before we go into Chip’s comments, we have to talk about something else. The hot topic of the day is the trade of Brandon Boykin, and some subsequent comments that Boykin made. Here are the comments from Boykin.
“The truth is Chip is uncomfortable around grown men of our culture. He can’t relate, and that makes him uncomfortable, he like to be in total control of everything. Players can excel when you naturally let them be who they are and in my experience that hasn’t been important to him. I’m forever grateful to Mr. Lurie, Howie, my teammates and fans of Philadelphia.”
Ouch. You can’t just shrug those comments off as sour grapes. This isn’t LeSean or DeSean leaving a huge salary and a great role in a dynamic offense. This isn’t someone who had character issues. Boykin is going to a better situation. He will have a chance to legitimately compete for a starting role in Pittsburgh. That’s huge for him as he heads into a contract year. Nickelback money can be good, but it is down from starting corner money.
I remember seeing Boykin at the 2012 Senior Bowl. He stood out to me there because he was hanging out with his family. Most players get with agents and/or handlers after practice. Boykin was there with his family. He was not your typical jock. When a guy like that is critical, you have to listen to him.
Chip was asked about Boykin’s comments. He didn’t know what to say. Chip mentioned that he and Boykin shook hands and hugged last night when they discussed the move. I’m guessing Chip had no idea that Boykin would say anything negative. Chip did admit that hearing the comments did bother him a little bit.
As far as the trade, Chip said the Steelers had been after Boykin for a while. This was their best offer and the Eagles felt it was too good to pass up. It is a 5th rounder for now, but can go up to a 4th rounder if Boykin plays 60 percent of the snaps this year. The Steelers have some issues at CB so Boykin can compete for a starting job. If he’s just the nickel, that could be okay as well. Last year the Steelers nickelback played 60 percent of the snaps. And Chip did admit the fact Boykin was in a contract year was a factor in the deal.
Chip stressed that a big reason for this is the Eagles sudden depth at CB. Byron Maxwell will be one starter. Nolan Carroll and Eric Rowe will compete for the other. For now, JaCorey Shepherd, E.J. Biggers and Jaylen Watkins will be the three guys battling for the nickel spot.
Chip went out of his way to praise Carroll. These don’t just feel like typical offseason fluff comments to me. It sounds like Chip and the staff are very high on Carroll right now. The team is also very happy with Shepherd and Rowe.
There were two other big nuggets from Chip today. Most important, Sam Bradford is 100 percent healthy. He is full go to do everything. There are no plans to ease him into the flow of things. He will practice just like all the other QBs. The team will monitor him and adjust that if Bradford’s knee gives him any issues.
Chip made it abundantly clear that ILB Mychal Kendricks will not be traded. “You can write that down in ink.” More than a few people were worried that the Boykin deal meant Kendricks would also be moved. That is not the case.
Both players are in their contract years, but there are differences. Boykin was a great role player. Kendricks is an impact starter. The Eagles may not keep him long term, but he has value this year. With Kiko Alonso and DeMeco Ryans both coming off injuries, Kendricks offers good insurance. And LB is the key part of the 3-4 defense. Playmaking LBs are critical. The Eagles are comfortable with having a rookie compete for the Nickelback job, but not with having a rookie trying to start at ILB (Jordan Hicks).
Brandon Boykin played lights out in 2013. He was brilliant, picking off 6 passes and making big plays all season long. That level of play would surely get a chance to start, right? Nope. He remained in the slot while the starting CBs were highly inconsistent throughout the 2014 season.
Chip Kelly and Bill Davis believe in big corners, and that is the one area where Boykin doesn’t measure up. He can run, jump, cover and make plays, but he is 5-9, 185 and that isn’t changing.
The Eagles weren’t going to keep Boykin long term so with him heading into a contract year the prudent move was to trade him, which the Eagles just did.
Training Camp Eve breaking news: Brandon Boykin traded to PIT for conditional 5th-rounder in 2016.
I know this move will frustrate plenty of people, but it was the smart move. Boykin was going to leave in free agency next March. The Eagles would have gotten nothing in compensation (Comp picks only come if your team doesn’t sign any free agents to big deals and you just can’t count on that). By moving him now you get a pick for the 2016 draft. If that does become a 4th rounder, that’s a good pick.
Who will replace Boykin in the slot? The Eagles have several candidates.
First up, JaCorey Shepherd. I know he’s just a 6th round rookie, but this guy has outstanding cover skills. The Eagles are very high on him.
Veteran E.J. Biggers and 2nd year man Jaylen Watkins can compete for the job. Rookie Randall Evans spent most of his career at Kansas State playing in the slot. He would be a natural fit in there. He’s not as good as Shepherd so I see him as less likely to challenge for the job right away.
Walter Thurmond could obviously play in the slot, but he’s busy at FS for now. If one of the other Safety prospects plays lights out, that could change that situation.
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The Eagles made it official. With RB Matthew Tucker gone to the NFI list, the team had to add a RB.
Congratulations to Kevin on getting his shot at the NFL.
Monangai is 5-8, 205. He has acceptable speed, running a 4.69 40. He has some lower body explosion with a 37-inch vertical. The problem is that he’s stiff. Watch his highlights.
There is plenty to like. Monangai gets the ball and there is little wasted motion. He is a N-S runner that attacks up the field. He is strong and balanced. Monangai can take hits and bounce off them. He isn’t a guy that is going down on first contact very often.
Monangai’s running style makes him a good fit for the Eagles offense. Kelly wants runners that get the ball and go upfield. He doesn’t want a lot of dancing and juking. The problem is that Monangai is too stiff. He has little wiggle. Running N-S is good, but at some point you want to be able to mix in some moves on tacklers when running at the 2nd level or out in space.
Monangai is the longest of longshots, but the good news is that he’s a RB, the position where longshots make it all the time. Chris Polk and Matthew Tucker were UDFAs. All that really matters is what you do on the field.
The Eagles like Sam Bradford and Mark Sanchez. Beyond that, things are wide open. Barkley could play his way onto the roster. Tim Tebow could play his way onto the roster. It is possible that the guy who struggles the least will end up surviving.
The x-factor here is that Tebow is versatile. He can run the ball and help the team in some other areas if the coaches want to get creative with him. Barkley is a pure pocket passer.
The interesting scenario is one where Barkley does get traded (for 2 turntables and a microphone). Does GJ Kinne move back to QB? Do the Eagles have someone on the street they would add to compete for the job? Even if the Eagles want Tebow to win the job, they need a body to help with practice and preseason reps.
The focus this summer will be on Bradford and Sanchez, but it will also be interesting to see how Barkley and Tebow play. Barkely was better in the spring, but it wasn’t as if he did anything special. Tebow was awkward in his first time back in an NFL setting in a while. Tebow could take a step forward in Training Camp, now that he’s had time to digest the offense and get his feet under him.
Barkley is probably what-you-see-is-what-you-get. He’s not coming back from an injury. He’s not new here. And so on. The one thing with Barkley is that he’s a young guy and every now and then those players will have the light go on after a couple of mediocre seasons. You certainly can’t count on that, but it has happened.
It will be interesting to see if Barkley or Tebow steps up and wins the job or if the Eagles are looking for a #3 QB in a few weeks. Mike Vick is still on the market, right?
Training Camp is the first real football of the year. Players will be in pads. There will be hitting and even some tackling. The media is there everyday so we get constant reports on who is headed to Canton, Ohio and who has one foot in the football grave. Fun stuff.
This year’s camp is generating a lot of excitement because there is a great combination of curiosity and excitement. Many people feel the Eagles are going to win 10 to 13 games, despite the fact they changed QB, RB, WR, ROLB, CB, S and both OG spots.
Everyone is going to be focused on Sam Bradford, and for good reason. He is the most talented pocket passer the Eagles have had since…Jaws? Vick, McNabb and Garcia were all athletic players. Feeley was more overachiever than naturally talented. Ditto that for Ty Detmer. No one would describe Randall Cunningham as a pocket passer. He was The Ultimate Weapon.
Bradford can’t prove himself in Training Camp. He’ll have to wait for real games to do that. He can start to answer some questions and show his potential. The first order of business is obviously staying on the field. Bradford won’t be getting tackled or hit hard, but he’ll have the occasional rusher bump into him. Bradford needs to show that he can move around on the leg. He needs to show he can plant and drive when throwing. Ideally, you want to see him looking comfortable on the field. You don’t want him grimacing as he throws. You don’t want him favoring the leg. Bradford needs to look natural.
The pass rush will be live. Bradford will have to deal with bodies around him. That can be an issue for some players coming off an ACL injury. They get very protective of their legs and will focus on that more than running the play correctly. It will be a great sign if Bradford can stay focused on executing the play and not watching the rush or trying to protect his legs.
That’s the simple stuff.
Bradford will have a lot of pressure to perform well. Because of his background at Oklahoma, playing in a fast-paced offense and getting the ball out quickly should come naturally to him. Next is decision-making. You want to see him getting the ball to the right receiver. Last year Nick Foles was trying to be perfect and that led to him holding the ball too long at times. Mark Sanchez got rid of the ball quickly, which meant every game there were wide open players running down the field screaming for the ball while a checkdown target was battling for a 4-yard gain.
Back in his rookie year, Bradford was a checkdown QB when playing in Pat Shurmur’s offense. Now that Bradford is a veteran and he’s playing with a good OL and good receivers, he needs to be more aggressive. During the first few days of TC, he might focus on getting the ball out quickly, which means finding the first open receiver, often on a short route. That’s fine. If he’s still doing that on August 14, we might have an issue. You have to use the whole field. You have to use all your weapons.
Accuracy is an area where Bradford should be a step up from Foles and Sanchez. Some of you have pointed out that Bradford didn’t have a good completion percentage with the Rams. There is a big difference in accuracy and completion percentage. Accuracy is putting the ball where you want it. Completion percentage is all about receivers making catches. Bradford was very accurate at Oklahoma.
You don’t see a lot of receivers having to stop and wait for the ball. You don’t see many circus catches. Bradford put the ball in the right spot so his guys could make the catch. On many throws, he put the ball in the right spot so they could grab it on the move and then go for a big RAC play. That’s accuracy.
Completing 54 percent of your passes with a WR corps of Brandon Lloyd, Brandon Gibson and Austin Pettis doesn’t tell me a whole lot, especially when the LT is Rodger Saffold. How much time was there to throw? Were guys getting open? Were they running the right routes? Were drops an issue? And so on.
I expect Bradford to play well this summer. He’ll make some bad throws and likely have a bad day or two. That’s going to happen with a new team, a new scheme and lots of rust. Overall, I think he will look like a good starting QB and will kill any notion that Mark Sanchez can win the job.
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Jimmy Bama is the King of Training Camp. He’s great at taking notes and noticing all kinds of interesting things. Make sure you read all his reports this summer.
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