Hanson again protecting his spot in the slot
BETHLEHEM, Pa. -- Every year, the Eagles add cornerbacks, and every year Joselio Hanson outlasts his competition in the slot.
This will be Hanson’s seventh year with the Eagles. He arrived in 2006 and only Trent Cole, Todd Herremans and Mike Patterson have been with the team longer.
Fourth-round pick Brandon Boykin is this summer’s challenger, but Hanson still appears to have the inside track to be the Eagles’ inside corner, a position that has seen an exponential increase in importance as teams have relied more on their slot receivers. Last season, Wes Welker and Victor Cruz finished first and third in the NFL in receiving yards, working primarily out of the slot.
“It’s a tough position,” said Hanson, who once upon a time lined up opposite Welker in practice at Texas Tech before both entered the NFL as undrafted free agents. “I think it’s one of the toughest positions on defense, playing the nickel back.
“Playing outside is a lot less thinking, but you have to be more athletic in the sense that you’re on an island, so you’re running sprints a lot. You’re running about 40-50 sprints a game [on the outside]. In the slot, you’re reading things, a lot more thinking, you have to communicate with the linebackers, the corners, the safeties. It’s different stuff going on.”
All of the thinking, all of the understanding of intricacies and reaction to quick, inside movement is what has enabled Hanson to fend off younger corners. At 30, Hanson’s the second oldest cornerback on the roster to Nnamdi Asomugha, and none of the other CBs are older than 26.
But while that could be a disadvantage from a pure speed sense, it’s a major benefit to Hanson from a mental standpoint.
“I feel like my knowledge of the game keeps tripling every year,” said Hanson. “I feel like I keep getting smarter and smarter every year. I know what offenses want to do in the slot and I’m able to be effective that way by keeping them from doing it. To come in young, it’s a learning curve.”
Asomugha can vouch for Hanson’s first point.
“He’s kind of the brains when he gets there in the middle,” Asomugha said of Hanson. “His mind, you know... he’s one of the smartest DBs we have.”
Like a lefthanded specialist with a devastating slider or a pure three-point shooter in the NBA, Hanson is well-suited for his clearly defined tasks. But unlike either of those analogous roles, Hanson was unaware coming into the league that the slot would be his home.
“I didn’t know that at first,” he said after the Eagles’ morning walk-through. “After I started playing [for the Eagles] I kind of realized this is a position I could really stick at. A position where I could be effective for a number of years.”E-mail Corey Seidman at email@example.com