Jay Ajayi showed off his home-run ability on a 46-yard touchdown run in his Eagles debut. Yet it was Brandon Brooks who helped spring Ajayi by blocking not one, but two Broncos defenders on the play.
It was one of two touchdowns in which Brooks threw the key block, the other being a 15-yard screen pass to Corey Clement. And both times, the 6-foot-5, 335-pound right guard demonstrated the ability to maul would-be tacklers at the second and third levels.
Brooks has always been a force at the point of attack. The way he was getting down the field and reaching his targets on Sunday, the 28-year-old was making his case for more recognition — perhaps even an invitation to the Pro Bowl.
Let’s go back to Ajayi’s touchdown. It’s a read-option handoff to the left, with center Jason Kelce pulling and acting as the lead blocker on the play. Brooks’ job is to get up to the second level and get a hat on Broncos middle linebacker Brandon Marshall.
This is a well-blocked play across the board. There’s a massive hole between the tackle and guard, and Kelce is demonstrating his unique ability to get out in space — this clip could go into his highlight reel as well. However, it’s Brooks’ block that’s ultimately going to blow this wide open.
First of all, Brooks is about seven yards up the field from where he first engages Marshall, and still has position. The linebacker might not have a chance to flow to the football and eventually make the stop regardless of what happens next.
But there was also some confusion on the part of Broncos cornerback Bradley Roby, who doesn’t seem to know which direction the play is going. That’s going to be a problem with Brooks rumbling down the field.
Marshall and Roby collide, and Brooks winds up putting both defenders on the ground. And while the miscue by Denver’s defense might’ve resulted in a score regardless, it didn’t help the linebacker was driven all the way into the secondary.
Look at where Brooks engages. That block finally ends 10 yards later, with Marshall getting completely erased.
That was an impressive block by Brooks, although there’s a chance Ajayi would’ve scored anyway. He is a Pro Bowl running back.
Earlier, there was no doubt Brooks had set Clement free on a running back screen with another tremendous downfield block.
This is a fairly standard setup, with Brooks the last of the offensive linemen to release in this instance behind Kelce and right tackle Lane Johnson. Those first blocks are going to set up a wall and give Clement a little breathing room after the catch, but there’s a lot of work to do from there.
Johnson gets tripped up and Kelce is engaged, so Brooks is pretty much a one-man convoy. At this point in the play, it doesn’t look like Clement has much chance of scoring.
Of course, it helps that Broncos safety Justin Simmons doesn’t want anything to do with Brooks coming straight at him at full speed with an almost 10-yard head start. A great block, a nifty move by Clement and a poor angle by Roby turns this into an easy six for the Eagles.
By the time Clement crosses the goal line, Brooks is practically standing in the end zone with him, a good 20 yards from where he starts the play. If there was any justice in the world, he would’ve been allowed to spike the ball.
A prize free-agent signing in 2016, Brooks has been quietly efficient for the Eagles, although he hasn’t necessarily been getting a lot of recognition. Make no mistake, he’s very good.
Brooks is currently ranked third among all NFL guards by Pro Football Focus, and given the Eagles’ record at 8-1, the whole team is receiving more attention this season. With all the national attention, and then tape like this, 2017 just may turn out to be Brooks’ first Pro Bowl campaign.