Originally posted on Pro Sports Daily  |  Last updated 5/24/12
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PHILADELPHIA -- With his 31st birthday fast approaching, Eagles cornerback Joselio Hanson has been promised nothing other than a chance to win the job he has held for the better part of the last six years.

Signed out of NFL Europe in 2006, the 5-9, 185-pound Hanson has been one of the league's better nickel corners the last six years. But he heads into the spring OTAs needing to beat out fourth-round rookie Brandon Boykin to hang on to his job, and probably his roster spot.

"I was told I was competing for the (nickel) job," Hanson said. "No problem. I've been competing (for a job) every year since I've been in the league. I've competed every year. That's the way it is in the NFL. Everybody's competing (for a job). Even the coaches are competing."

Hanson said the coaches shouldn't expect him to mentor Boykin, though.

"If they said we weren't competing, then maybe I would mentor (him). But when it's competition, it's every man for himself."

The Eagles are very high on Boykin, who fell into their lap in the fourth round of last month's draft. He's younger, faster and cheaper than Hanson. He played a lot of nickel at Georgia and also returns punts and kicks.

But Hanson isn't going down without a fight.

"I'm just trying to come out here and do my job," he said. "I feel I'm still the best nickel on the team. I continue to grow. I'm still not at the max of my mental ability to play the game, play this defense. I'm in the mental prime of my career. Not a lot of things confuse me out there."

Hanson found himself briefly unemployed last September when the Eagles released him. It mainly had to do with the arrivals of Pro Bowl corners Nnamdi Asomugha and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie. With another Pro Bowl corner, Asante Samuel, already on the premises, Hanson suddenly was the team's fourth corner.

Scheduled to make $1.8 million last year, the Eagles released him and then re-signed him three days later for considerably less money. Hanson spent the first nine games of the season as the team's fourth corner while new defensive coordinator Juan Castillo struggled mightily to find a way to put Samuel, Asomugha and Rodgers-Cromartie on the field together. The problem was, none of them could play the inside position that Hanson had mastered under the late Jim Johnson.

"A lot of people play nickel in the league, but they don't play the same position I play," Hanson said. "I always tell people, a lot of other nickels in the league don't have the same responsibilities I have. When it comes to our scheme, the pressure on me is (different).

"A lot of nickels around the league, they can just sit back and read the quarterback and react. That's pretty easy in football terms. Here, you have to do a lot of reading, communicating. I'm reading the (running) back. If the back goes this way, I've gotta do this. If he goes the other way, I've gotta do that. It's a lot more thinking than some other schemes."

Castillo tried using both Asomugha and Rodgers-Cromartie inside and both failed miserably as the Eagles lost six of their first nine games last year. Hanson finally was reinserted as the nickel in the tenth game against the Giants after Rodgers-Cromartie injured his ankle.

The Eagles held the Giants to 10 points and Eli Manning to 18 completions in 35 attempts that day as the Eagles earned a seven-point win. They went on to win five of their last seven games with Hanson at nickel, allowing 10 points or less in four of those five wins.

"Last year was difficult," Hanson said. "But I proved a point to them. 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."

Samuel was traded the Atlanta Falcons last month for a seventh-round pick, which will allow Castillo to play both Asomugha and Rodgers-Cromartie outside. But that doesn't mean Hanson will be the nickel. He will be challenged this spring and summer by the rookie, Boykin. Hanson knows he's got his work cut out for him, because he knows the Eagles probably would rather go with the younger guy. Then again, in a year when the Eagles believe they have the horses to compete for a Super Bowl title, going with a veteran who won't cost you a game with a mental mistake has its advantages.

"I'm working a lot harder now than maybe when I was younger," said Hanson, who has added about five pounds of muscle to his frame since last season. "I feel good. I feel faster and quicker than ever."

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