A lot of people already seem to have penciled in fourth-round pick Brandon Boykin as the team’s nickel cornerback this season. But Joselio Hanson doesn’t intend to give up that job without a fight.
Hanson, 30, is entering his seventh year with the Eagles. He was signed out of NFL Europe in 2006. Under the tutelage of the late Jim Johnson, he developed into one of the league’s better nickel corners.
"Jim really made me who I am," Hanson said. "A lot of teams at the time weren’t big on putting small guys in the slot. I feel like I changed the game. After Jim put me in there and I played well, teams started drafting smaller guys to play inside."
Last year was difficult for Hanson. With the arrivals of Nnamdi Asomugha and Dominque Rodgers-Cromartie, he became expendable. Or so the Eagles thought. Released before the season, he was re-signed a few days later, but spent the first nine games as the team’s fourth corner as new defensive coordinator Juan Castillo tried to do a square peg-round-hole thing at nickel with, first, Asomugha, and then, Rodgers-Cromartie.
Hanson returned to his nickel role in mid-November after Rodgers-Cromartie went down with an ankle injury. Not coincidentally, the Eagles’ defense started playing much better after that. They won five of their final seven games. Held four of those seven opponents to 10 points or less.
"It was a tough year, but I felt like I proved a point to them," Hanson said. "You can’t just put anybody inside. It’s a totally different position. When I got in there for good in the second half of the season, we ran off some wins. That was a good feeling."
If Hanson wants to experience that good feeling again, he’s going to have to beat out Boykin, a talented rookie out of Georgia who is a younger, faster version of Joselio.
Hanson said Tuesday that he was told by one of the team’s defensive coaches that he will be competing with Boykin for the nickel job. Whichever one wins that competition will open the season as the team’s nickel corner.
"I’m just trying to come out here and do my job," Hanson said. "I feel I’m still the best nickel on the team. I continue to grow. I’m not at the max of my mental ability to play this game, play this defense. I’m in the mental prime of my life. Not a lot of things confuse me out there."