Player to Watch: Brandon Boykin
It’s unusual that a player signed after training camp has already started would be pegged as a player to watch, but Boykin is an unusual case. As I mentioned above, Boykin was one of the best slot corners in the league in 2013 with the Eagles. He was just 23 years old and in his 2nd year in the league after being drafted by the Eagles in the 4th round of the 2012 draft.¹
Boykin is a feisty player, similar to Bryce Callahan who he is competing with for the slot job, and also undersized at 5-9, 183 pounds. He was injured during the 2012 combine but posted a 4.34 40-time at his pro-day and numbers that would have been near the top of that year’s corner class in other events. Boykin was a 3-year starter at Georgia and totaled 159 tackles and nine interceptions.
I don’t know the details of why Boykin couldn’t see the field for Chip Kelly in 2014 or Mike Tomlin in 2015, but eight career interceptions in just seven NFL starts should give you some idea of what Boykin can do on the field. He’s also forced five fumbles despite his diminutive frame. When Boykin is on the field, he makes plays, which is exactly what the Bears need.
With NFL teams running more four-WR sets than ever, both Callahan and Boykin should be on the field at the same time often this season. It does make the Bears vulnerable to teams with multiple tall receivers, but both players are aggressive enough and have significant vertical leaps to help negate their lack of height.
If Boykin can stay out of HC John Fox’s doghouse, which he hasn’t been able to do with his last two coaches, he could give the Bears a much-needed playmaker in sub-packages and a guy who can flip the field with his aggressive ball skills and knack for big plays. The fact that it took Boykin this long to find a contract should be a wake-up call and hopefully clean up whatever issues have kept him off the field the last two seasons.
Adding a combination of Callahan, Boykin, Deiondre Hall, and possibly Tavese Calhoun (my runner up for player to watch) to Fuller and Porter, should give the Bears significantly more secondary depth than they had last year. Boykin, in particular, could help the Bears force more turnovers than last year’s unit did. Here is a clip of some of Boykin’s biggest plays from the last year he got regular playing time (2013):
¹The 4th round of the 2012 draft was pretty solid including RB Lamar Miller, WR Travis Benjamin, QB Kirk Cousins, TE Ladarius Green, OT Bobby Massie, DT Jaye Howard, CB Boykin, DT Mike Daniels, and of course the Bears pick TE Evan Rodriguez (ugh).