Former Jayhawk JaCorey Shepherd sprinting toward starting spot in Philadelphia?

Former Kansas cornerback JaCorey Shepherd sprints to the finish of a timed 40 yard dash during Pro Day on Wednesday, March 25, 2015.

He has only been playing the position for a few years, but former Kansas University standout JaCorey Shepherd may already have positioned himself to become a starting cornerback in the NFL.

Drafted in the sixth round last May by Philadelphia, Shepherd consistently has impressed the Eagles coaches throughout the spring and summer and appears to be in line to get the first crack at the team’s starting nickel back position heading into the 2015 season.

“He’s explosive,” Eagles coach Chip Kelly told “He’s got great ball skills. Really quick in and out of cuts. He seems like he’s got a real knack to being around the ball all the time. Showed up a lot when you turn the tape on.”

That was exactly what Shepherd was banking on throughout the winter and spring as he prepared for the NFL Draft. Plagued by an injured hamstring that kept him out of action at the combine in February, Shepherd did what he could during workouts with scouts and quietly hoped that what he put on film against some of the best passing offenses in the country last season would be enough to entice a team to pick him.

Philadelphia was that team, but Shepherd and others admitted they were surprised it took until the sixth round.

“We were kind of holding our breath,” Kelly admitted. “But he was a guy we had targeted and we were excited when he was still there in the sixth and we had a chance to get him.”

As with any rookie entering the NFL for the first time, a big part of getting onto the field early includes catching a break or two. Shepherd got his break recently, when the Eagles traded likely starting nickel back Brandon Boykin to Pittsburgh. That opened the door for Shepherd to begin taking first-team reps at the position, but it’s fair to say that Shepherd’s performance throughout the summer may have had something to do with Philly feeling safe to shop Boykin.

Don’t expect the suddenly shimmering opportunity to change a thing about the way Shepherd approaches his new job.

“I’m still learning,” Shepherd said after a recent practice. “Guys are already ahead of me. If I’m going to mess up, I’m going to mess up full speed. But like I said, I learn real fast. So I would rather mess up early so then by the time game time comes I know my mistakes and I’m prepared for it.”

Added Eagles safety Malcom Jenkins, a seven-year pro out of Ohio State: “The biggest thing with him, he’s been hungry. He’s pulled me aside, he’s pulled coaches aside to do extra stuff, to get into the film room and learn it. He’s not afraid of being out there. Very, very confident, and he has the physical attributes to really be successful in the slot, and he’s smart enough to learn it. So we’re looking forward to seeing that development in the next few weeks.”