The Pittsburgh Steelers finally gave Brandon Boykin a chance to play in Week 13 against the Indianapolis Colts, and he had an extremely solid outing in his first significant game time in 2015. Not everything was perfect, but we will take a look at three key plays made by Boykin in the Colts game, to give fans a glimpse of what they can expect from the defensive back against the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 14.
This is the perfect play to illustrate what the Cover 2 defense is supposed to do for a secondary. The thought behind the Cover 2 scheme is to allow defensive backs to play their zone, while also keeping their eyes in the backfield to make a play on the ball. On this play, Boykin does a great job staying square to the line of scrimmage, which allows him to see the throw, deflection and gives him a chance to make the interception.
His drop back is the best part of this play. His smooth and fast beckpedal keeps his eyes on the quarterback. Fans of the Steelers have seen defensive backs turn their hips and run with the receiver in this situation, which ultimately would have taken them out of the play. Boykin does the fundamentals of pass coverage very well, as you will see in the other two plays.
Defensive backs always talk about defending Ben Roethlisberger and his wide receivers as being a near impossible job when he escapes pressure and extends the play. Although Matt Hasselbeck is no Roethlisberger, you can see how difficult a job it is for a defender to stay with a wide receiver for an extended period of time. Nonetheless, Boykin does a tremendous job with such a task. Again, with fundamentals. Boykin is a cornerback who is fast enough to not have to drop his hips and turn and run, but can backpedal with receivers until the last possible second. This helps him stay with the receiver, and ultimately break up the pass.
As Mike Tomlin pointed out in his press conference, the Steelers don't like Boykin in run support. It isn't his forte, but he has shown he can get the job done. On this play, he doesn't get the job done in pass defense after the catch. This is just a simple missed tackle which is caused by the hesitation which comes with an open field tackle. This has become all too common for the Steelers this season, but if Boykin is able to sure up his tackling in the final quarter of the season, he will greatly improve the Steelers pass defense.
Brandon Boykin improves the Steelers' secondary tremendously. His ability to do those small things correctly is a breathe of fresh air for a unit which has given up a tremendous amount of yardage throughout 2015. The Steelers are going to stick with the defensive back rotation which was successful against the Colts, and putting Boykin on the field looks to be an extremely smart decision for the duration of the 2015 season.