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Brandon Boykin trade could mean it's time for Eagles rookie JaCorey Shepherd to shine

Who will be the team's new nickel cornerback?

Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Brandon Boykin is no longer a member of the Philadelphia Eagles. Whether you liked the trade or not, that's the reality right now.

With that in mind, it's time to look ahead. The Eagles are now faced with the challenge of replacing Boykin. Who will start at nickel now? How things play out in training camp and preseason will give us a better idea. In the meantime, here are some options:

JaCorey Shepherd - Arguably the favorite to win the job. Shepherd shadowed Boykin during formation drills in Philadelphia's spring practices. The Kansas alumnus was one of the Eagles' most popular picks in the 2015 NFL Draft. After falling to the sixth round, some called Shepherd "the steal of the draft." Shepherd really impressed this spring. He has a real natural knack for making plays on the ball. He finished his college career with 30 passes defensed. Earlier this week, Eagles Insider Dave Spadaro hinted Shepherd might push for playing time sooner than people expected. It seems he was right. The downside with Shepherd is he never really played nickel during college.

Jaylen Watkins - The second year defensive back spent spring practices working out at both safety and cornerback. Watkins competed for the backup nickel spot last offseason before lining up there in practice during the regular season.

E.J. Biggers - The 28-year-old Biggers lined up as a slot cornerback on 57% of his defensive snaps with Washington last season. Biggers struggled in coverage so he's hardly a favorite here but the veteran is in the mix.

Nolan Carroll - I don't think this one is likely. Carroll seems like the favorite to win the outside cornerback job. But maybe Carroll could rotate to play the nickel while Eric Rowe lines up on the outside.

Eric Rowe - See above.

Byron Maxwell - The Eagles sure didn't sign Maxwell to a huge contract to have him exclusively play the slot, but it wouldn't be a shock to see him line up there when the matchup is appropriate. Last season the Seahawks used Maxwell over Jordan Matthews in the slot to help shut the rookie down. If/when Maxwell rotates to the slot, Rowe or Carroll could take his spot on the outside.

Randall Evans - Unlike Shepherd, Evans has experience playing the slot. The sixth round rookie should be able to compete for the job.

Walter Thurmond - Don't see it. Thurmond definitely has experience in the slot, but the team seems pretty set on making him their starting safety next to Malcolm Jenkins.

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