Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Eagles Rookies Under Pressure

Eagles looking to improve in the kick
returning game with rookie Boykin.

-Brenden Peddigree

One of the surprise releases the Eagles made on cut day was that of tenured nickel cornerback Joselio Hanson. Hanson had been with the team for six years after stints in San Francisco and NFL Europe. It seemed, throughout training camp and the majority of the preseason, that Hanson solidified his position as the starting slot corner. However, a rookie was aiming for his job.

Brandon Boykin, the fourth round pick and versatile college star, came into camp with his mind set on winning a job. He took the kick return job immediately and never let go. That wasn’t enough though. Boykin took advantage of the playing time he got in the preseason and the Eagles feel he is ready to take the full-time job at nickel.

In a division that has the likes of Victor Cruz and Dwayne Harris as slot receivers, Boykin will be tested often. Had the Eagles named Boykin the start with Hanson still on the roster, there would be some insurance behind him with the veteran waiting in the wings. By making it certain and cutting one of the longest tenured Eagles, Boykin has more pressure on him with only Curtis Marsh, who makes a living outside of the hashmarks, and Brandon Hughes, a still-unproven fourth year player out of Oregon State, able to fill in for him if the Eagles bold move doesn’t pay off.

All that being said, I think Boykin will be fine as the Eagles starter and can eventually evolve into the ball-hawking corner that he was in Georgia. With Nnamdi Asomugha, looking to rebound from a disappointing 2011 season, and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, who is looking like an All-Pro in camp and preseason, on the outsides Boykin will get a lot of balls thrown in his direction and will be in a position to record a few early pass breakups or interceptions.

While the rookie will have a learning curve after getting few reps against starters in the preseason, he has the chance to make the Eagles cornerbacks even more of a nightmare for the opposition than they already are and live up to his versatile college title.

Kendricks has started
since day one.
Mychal Kendricks, the second round pick for the Eagles, will also have a lot of eyes on him on Sunday. After being thrown into the SAM linebacker spot from day one, the Eagles had high expectations for Kendricks. He has lived up to all of them and more throughout the preseason.

Easily taking the “Eagles Best Linebacker” award for the preseason, Kendricks has outplayed Brian Rolle, who was benched in favor of Akeem Jordan before the fourth preseason game, and DeMeco Ryans who hasn’t played as his pre-injury self yet. Kendricks was a disturber in the backfield on every run and had incredible sideline-to-sideline speed when he needed to get from the middle of the field to the sideline quickly.

In week two of the preseason it was projected that Kendricks would face his biggest test yet having to defend the machine that is Rob Gronkowski. This would have displayed greatest whether his coverage skills are up to par with some of the best in the league. Unfortunately, the Patriots decided to hold “Gronk” out of the game along with most of the starting offense.

Looking around the division again, Kendricks will be utilized often in the coverage of tight ends. With DeMeco in the middle (likely spying on RG3 and playing zone against NYG and DAL), Kendricks will have the responsibility of defending Fred Davis, Martellus Bennett, and Jason Witten who is having his injury re-evaluated Tuesday. Other games in the season include tight ends like Jimmy Graham, Tony Gonzalez, and Jermaine Gresham. Kendricks is probably looking down the roster and wondering how he will fair against the league’s best tight ends and future Hall of Famers.

Another thing that is nice to see from an Eagles defender is sure tackling. The epidemic among the Eagles defense in 2011 was the inability to tackle. By my count, Kendricks has missed just one tackle in which he made contact on the defender. DeMeco, while not overly impressive, has also been a sure tackler throughout the preseason. Akeem Jordan hasn’t stood out while on defense but has been one of the Eagles best special teams players for almost the full duration of his career in Philadelphia.

However he fairs, Kendricks has already showed that he is a massive upgrade from what the Eagles had in his position a season ago. Splitting time at SAM last season was Jamar Chaney, Akeem Jordan, and Moise Fokou who started the majority of the season and is no longer with the team.

Like a year ago, the Eagles are looking for big contributions from players that were not in midnight green a season ago. Only this time, the players were in college uniforms instead of elsewhere in the league. However, with a full offseason and a strong supporting cast, this season’s newcomers should be able to transition better than last season’s newcomers. 

Follow me on Twitter @brendenp2011 or contact me via email at BPeddigree2011@gmail.com.

No comments:

Post a Comment