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August 03, 2015

Bill Davis weighs in on Boykin and the state of the Eagles secondary

Eagles NFL
080315_Jacorey-Shepherd_AP Chris Szagola/AP

Eagles cornerbacks Jaylen Watkins (37) and JaCorey Shepherd.

On the second day of Eagles training camp, defensive coordinator Bill Davis took the podium to the answer some questions about the media, and unsurprisingly, Brandon Boykin -- and how he'll be replaced in the secondary -- was a dominant theme throughout.

Here's a look at some of what Davis had to say:

•  •  •  BOYKIN'S EXIT  •  •  •

On why Boykin is no longer on this team:

“I think, from an organizational standpoint, you make a decision — and we were all part of that decision. And Boykin did give us quality starting reps. But the guys behind him, and the guys who could replace him were close enough — again, in theory because Boykin did it on Sunday. Now Walter Thurmond’s done it on Sundays, Jenkins has done it on Sundays. JaCorey Shepherd and some of the younger guys have not. But there’s enough options there to make it a good move for the organization.”

On how much losing Boykin hurts:

“You never want to lose anyone. And I’m a Boykin fan. I’ve always like Brandon and think he did a great job at nickel for us. And he was a pleasure to be around. I worked and coached a lot with the nickels last two years, so I got to know him even probably better than some of the other positions. 
“But the competition and the depth have become more close — we have more depth. And so when somebody comes asking for a trade and you feel comfortable with the options you have if that particular player leaves, it was a close enough gap where we felt it was good move for both him and us, and the Steelers. Like everybody won. Didn’t want to lose him. Didn’t think we would. I mean, as of two days ago, all the plans were to go forward, but Pittsburgh kept coming and coming and asking for him.”

On how Chip Kelly relates to his players compared to other head coaches:

“It’s outstanding, and I say that from all sincerity. He’s got one of the most open-door policies I’ve been around. And you can look at the guys I’ve been around make your own assessments, but some of those guys had closed-door policies. He’s wide open.
“And you talk about Boykin, he went in over the offseason and had a long talk with Chip about his role, about outside corner, about nickel. He came in my office, we had great conversations with Brandon about all those things. I think Chip has one of the biggest open-door policies for the players. And ask the guys in the building, he really does. It’s really being portayed outside different that it is inside, because it really is an easy to be around atmosphere.”

On what he makes of ex-players comments:

“I think every one of those three people need to answer their own questions. I can’t answer that for any of those guys, for what they’re thinking. I’d be crazy to even try. I can just answer from my view, of being in 10 different organizations with all different kinds of schemes and systems. And I’m telling you from the bottom of my heart, this is a very great place for players.
“We do more for players than anything I’ve ever been around. We do more for their conditioning, their body, their health, their mental health, their growth in all parts of being a man and a player than anywhere I’ve been. And you can ask the players. We spend time on them, and their mindsets, and their moods, how their bodies are feeling, their hydration, all of it. I think it’s a couple isolated guys and they have to answer their own questions about that.”

•  •  •  REPLACING BOYKIN  •  •  •

On JaCorey Shepherd taking first-team reps:

“I’ve got to address this. We had to have someone take the first practice snaps at the nickel. JaCorey Shepherd is simply competing like all other guys in there; he just had the first rack. You’ll see him in there again today. We’re kind of going on a two-day basis as far as who is in Group 1, Group 2 and Group 3. It’s the first team, second team and third team. It’s just groups that we practice in, and we are going to mix and match and move everyone around.
“It’s neat to have the ability from both the skill set from the players in the secondary and a football intelligence set. We’ve got multiple positions that can move around, from a talent standpoint — where a guy can play corner, safety and nickel; or corner and nickel; or safety and nickel — and we’ll move them around until we find the best point.”

On going from Boykin to Shepherd:

“It’s more than JaCorey Shepherd. It’s Walter Thurmond. It’s Malcolm Jenkins. It’s other veterans that can play in the nickel. I’m not putting Walter Thurmond down there yet, because he’s learning a new position at safety. So right now, I’ll give the younger guys some nickel reps. And as we get closer to the season, if that’s not looking like it’s supposed to look, then Walter Thurmond would get more, Malcolm Jenkins would get more.”

On what makes Nolan Carroll a first-teamer this year:

“Nolan has the skill set to start, and he did in Miami. And we’re very happy with the offseason he had. He had one of the best offseason I’ve been around. I think he won maybe every competition we had in the offseason. To his technique that he’s gotten into. Nolan has been a starter in the NFL and we viewed him as a starter last year. Early on, we kept trying to rotate and he had some hamstring and different issues and as we went along, I probably didn’t get him in there enough. And that’s on me. But we’ve got all the confidence that Nolan can compete for that other starting corner spot. And he is competing for it also. It’s not handed to him because Boykin’s not here. It’s one of those deals where we are in competition mode right now, at all positions. And we’re excited about Nolan.”
“In the offseason, you get a good look at guys’ movement skills. And I think in the secondary, it’s easier to evaluate guys in shorts and apply it to guys in pads. When you start evaluating the D-line and the linebackers, that gets a little scary, because you’re not watching for contact. But when you’re watching DBs move in space and cover, even though we aren’t allowed to press like we would want in the offseason, but you still get a good evaluation of secondary platers that accurate to game play.”

On how he plans on getting all the new secondary players to play together:

“I think one of the things that separates us from all the NFL teams I’ve been with is the Chip Kelly system. Because it’s a no-huddle offensive system means the volume of reps you get per practice are much higher. I’ve calculated that it’s two to three times higher per practice. With all those offseason reps, which is way more than you get anywhere else, our backups and our younger guys — our new guys — get more and more than if you were somewhere else. And there’s nothing like a practice rep, on the field, to train somebody. You’ve got to keep doing it and doing it. And we covet the mistakes. ‘Come on and make your mistakes, guys. Don’t be fearful of mistakes. Come make them because you’ll learn from them.’ And I think all those offseason reps help the new guys and the young guys be better prepared to come out here and compete in the preseason and compete for a roster spot.”

•  •  •  BEST OF THE REST  •  •  •

On the crowded inside linebacker position:

“There a couple thoughts that are in there. One of them is that it’s not only [DeMeco Ryans, Mychal Kendricks and Kiko Alonso]. We really have a deep inside backer pool. We have some talented players in there going beyond the first three. 
“We could go to packages and we might go to packages where all three are on the field. But also, we’ve played more snaps and we’ve had more snaps defensively than anybody, so there’s plenty to go around. And a rotational basis will could also be used, and that’s probably where we’ll start.”
“Right now, at the beginning of training camp, everybody’s up for everything. DeMeco could win the starting nickel spot through competition, just like anyone can. There’s no “starters.” We don’t have depth charts. So right now, in this beginning phase, it’s ‘all you go and compete for it’ and then as we break down the preseason games and get closer to the real games, then we’ll start separating depth and separating packages. But right now, DeMeco’s got every chance to be in the nickel like everyone else does.”

On whether or not Eric Rowe could move to safety:

“Not right now. It’s not in our plans. He has the capability to do it, but as a young rookie, I’m not going to put that burden of learning [safety] on him right now. Right now, he’s a corner, he’s in a corner world, he’s going to compete at corner, and that’s his spot.”

On Marcus Smith:

“He only had half an offseason, kind of. He was out there some. But he’s taken big steps. He came in here in great shape, best we’ve seen him look. His understanding of the scheme is at another place. The rookie year is so hard, from the whole offseason after college ends to the pressure of being a draft choice. Guys you see in the second year relax more, they’re more themselves and they play smarter because they’re not all nerved up. And we’re hoping to see all those things come through with Marcus.”

On if the defense has improved this offseason:

“It’s too early for me to make that statement because we still have season. There’s the offseason, where everybody in the world right now is happy with what they have and the changes they’ve made. The reality of the NFL is that until you start hitting Sundays for real, not the preseason games, and the guys show what they can do in the heat of battle against the main quarterback and receivers, you don’t know if you’re better or worse. The first game, against Atlanta, will tell us our starting spot, particularly in the secondary, and then we’ll go from there.”

Follow Matt on Twitter: @matt_mullin