PHILADELPHIA -- There was an interesting subplot to the Philadelphia Eagles' Tuesday practice session.
Wide receiver Jordan Matthews seemed to line up across from cornerback Brandon Boykin quite a bit in the one-on-one passing drills. From the outside, you might think that was either chance or something the coaches wanted to see. It turns out that Matthews, the second-round pick from Vanderbilt, requested the matchup in order to work against the Eagles’ nickel cornerback.
“It’s just seeing different looks,” Matthews said. “The first couple days, I was going against Malcolm [Jenkins]. I said, `Malcolm, let’s get together. I want to work against you. You’re a safety. I want to see how it is to go against somebody who’s going to be a little bit more physical in there, somebody who’s really going to try to get their hands on me.’
“And then, yesterday and this morning, I said, `Boykin, let’s go together. I need to work against you a little bit. That’s why we took a lot more one-on-one reps today. It’s just about seeing different looks, being able to work against different types of guys.”
The Eagles have had Matthews running with the second team as the slot receiver. He is likely to move up to the first team in the slot, then eventually see more time as one of the outside receivers. For now, coach Chip Kelly has talked about the importance of letting a rookie get acclimated at one position before forcing him to master other positions.
As long as he’s in the slot, Mathews is going to face nickel cornerbacks. The Eagles happen to have a pretty good one in Boykin, who tied for second in the NFL with six interceptions last season.
“He’s easily one of the best nickel cornerbacks in the league,” Matthews said. “I don’t have to talk about it. The numbers show it.”
The Eagles like Boykin in the slot partly because, at 5-foot-10 (or less), he tends to face bigger receivers when he lines up outside. In the 6-3 Matthews, the Eagles have a slot receiver who is on the tall side. So the matchup was fun to watch Tuesday. Boykin would slap a ball away at the last moment on one play, then Matthews would catch a high throw well out of Boykin’s reach on another.
“It definitely gets competitive, but it’s all love out there,” Matthews said. “Every single time, after the team drill, we might be physical with each other, but I’m going to give him a high five and keep it going.”