This Pro Bowl nod should be even more special for Brandon Brooks

This Pro Bowl nod should be even more special for Brandon Brooks

Having already cemented his status as one of the best free agent pickups in Eagles history, Brandon Brooks will add to his impressive resume again this year.

The Eagles’ right guard is heading back to the Pro Bowl.

This year, Brooks has taken his game to a new level and has arguably been one of the best guards and overall offensive linemen in football.

What makes his success even more special this year is that Brooks returned for the 2019 season opener less than eight months after he tore his Achilles in the playoff game against the Saints. Not only did he return in that short amount of time, he returned an even better player than when he left.

“To me, it was never in doubt if I was gonna play in 2019,” Brooks said in July. “It was never in doubt that I wasn’t going to miss half the season. That was never a thought in my mind.”

Joining Brooks as a Pro Bowler is the guy who plays to his left, center Jason Kelce, who has made the team for the first time since 2016. It’s Kelce’s third Pro Bowl nod, tied for most among a center in Eagles history.

Also making the team: Fletcher Cox, Zach Ertz and Rick Lovato.

But the most impressive one has to be Brooks because of what he’s overcome to get back to this spot.

Before Brooks, 30, signed with the Eagles before the 2016 season, he hadn’t made the Pro Bowl in his four seasons with the Houston Texans. He’s at the tail end of his fourth season in Philadelphia and has made three Pro Bowls and in consecutive years starting in 2017.

This season, Brooks has been the Eagles’ best offensive lineman and has solidified an offensive line that had its struggles at times, especially early in the season.

The Eagles rewarded him this season with a four-year, $54.2 million contract extension that will keep him in Philadelphia through the 2024 season. At the end of the extension he’ll be 35, which means there’s a possibility he finishes his career with the Eagles.

After playing on a pitch count coming off the offseason surgery in the opener, Brooks played every snap until the Seattle game when his anxiety issues came back. He played 12 snaps but wasn’t able to finish the game and again had to explain that his anxiety made him physically ill. He said he thought the new contract played a role.

Brooks isn’t embarrassed by his battle with anxiety and, in fact, has become outspoken about issues of mental health, especially in the sports world.

“I think the biggest thing I always try to say first: I don’t do this to have people feel sorry for me or anything like that,” he said in late November. “The reason I try to share what I go through and my story is for people out there who are scared to get help, who feel embarrassed or ashamed to go through any type of mental illness. Hopefully people who are going through that type of stuff hopefully saw the amazing outreach and outpouring from people across the globe really about my situation.

"So just letting them know it can be OK. Some things can be prevented if you get help at some of the earlier signs. I never really thought it would be such a big impact, but I just kind of wanted to tell the truth and share my story for the one or two people that it could help. That’s all I ever really wanted to do.”

Since that game against the Seahawks, Brooks has played every snap in the three games since and has returned to his usual dominant self.

Even with that setback, Brooks has played 92 percent of the Eagles’ offensive snaps this season and has been their best offensive lineman.

Brooks is still just 30 and in the prime of his career that couldn’t even be slowed down by a torn Achilles or a setback with his anxiety. This trip to the Pro Bowl is very deserving.

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Eagles bringing back receiver Marcus Green

Eagles bringing back receiver Marcus Green

The Eagles are bringing back wide receiver Marcus Green, who spent last season on their practice squad, a league source confirmed to NBC Sports Philadelphia. 

Green, 23, was among four Eagles released a week and a half ago. And now he’s coming back. NFL Network first reported the news.   

Green (5-8, 191) was a Falcons 6th-round pick out of Louisiana-Monroe last year. After he was waived at final cuts, Green joined the Eagles in early September and spent the entire 2019 season on the Birds’ practice squad. 

In four years at Louisiana-Monroe, Green caught 202 passes for 2,698 yards and 23 touchdowns. He also had 51 rushing attempts for 492 yards (9.6) and 1 touchdown. He also returned kicks and punts in college. He’s less of a pure receiver and more of a playmaker. 

With Green back, the Eagles have a full roster at 80, although that includes Brandon Brooks and Alshon Jeffery who are both on Active/PUP and are not healthy enough to practice. That 80 does not include Matt Leo who has an International exemption. 

Still, the Eagles are at the 80-man limit to keep them from going split-squad at practices. The Eagles are still in the Acclimatization Period of their collectively bargained training camp. They won’t hold non-padded practices until Aug. 12 and the first padded practice won’t be until Aug. 17. 

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Eagles' Fletcher Cox keeps getting better and it's scary

Eagles' Fletcher Cox keeps getting better and it's scary

He’s going into Year 9 now, he’s made five straight Pro Bowls, and he’s at the point now where some veterans just coast through the rest of their career and pile up the honors and pocket millions of dollars and are OK with just being OK.

Not Fletcher Cox.

This guy will never be content.

“I just want to get better at everything,” Cox said Wednesday.

There’s a lot to admire about Cox. The intensity he plays with. The way he attacks practice. The ferocious physical nature of his game that rubs off on the rest of the team. The team-first mentality that’s built into his personality.

And there’s an impossibly high standard he’s constantly trying to live up to, a standard that drives him no matter how many honors he gets, no matter how many sacks he records.

The great ones all share that trait. Whether it was Reggie White, Seth Joyner or Eric Allen, they all had that burning determination to be even better, that refusal to be content with where they’re at as players.

And that’s the company Cox is in. One of the best in Eagles history. 

If you’re a young player or any player really and you see the highest-paid or most-honored players working their ass off every day, you’re going to follow in line.

That's what leadership really is. Not all that rah-rah stuff. It's setting an example for the people around you.  

That’s why veterans who mail it in are so damaging to any team. 

Because young guys are always going to follow the lead of the established veterans, and if those guys are taking shortcuts and not fully committed, that’s when you get disasters like the 2011 Dream Team.

Cox was at work at the NovaCare Complex on Tuesday, self-scouting, watching tape of himself, and that’s all he could think about.

The plays he didn’t make.

I was watching film yesterday, we were all in there, and I saw some things I can get better at, and I’ve got to work on those things during training camp,” he said. “I feel like if I can get off of blocks [better], there are three or four or five [more] sacks out there for me. When you look at it on tape, man, if I would have gotten off a second sooner it’s a sack. Just little things like that. But not only me getting better but the whole group getting better.

Think about Cox’s career.

He’s got 48 sacks in eight seasons despite dealing with constant double teams. And he stuffs the run as well as anybody in the game.

And for a lot of his years here, he’s been a one-man wrecking crew. 

The Eagles haven’t had a double-digit edge rusher since Cox was drafted, although Brandon Graham has been close a couple times. 

And the defensive tackles he’s played next to the most — Bennie Logan, Timmy Jernigan, Cullen Jenkins, Haloti Ngata, Beau Allen, Derek Landri and Isaac Sopoaga — have all been either average, injured, disappointing or washed up. 

He’s never had the benefit of elite talent around him. 

In fact, the only Pro Bowlers Cox has ever taken the field with here are Malcolm Jenkins in 2015, 2017 and 2018 and Connor Barwin in 2014.

Reggie had Jerome, Seth, Clyde, Byron Evans, Wes and Andre and Eric Allen around him.

Cox has carried this defense for almost a decade. 

And all he talks about is getting better.

Last year wasn’t Cox’s best year. He spent the offseason rehabbing the toe injury he suffered in the Saints playoff game and wasn’t really himself until the last month or so.

He still made his fifth straight Pro Bowl just because he’s that good.

But this offseason, he was able to get back to his normal offseason routine, and now he has a healthy Malik Jackson and newly acquired Javon Hargrave next to him, more interior talent than he’s ever seen.

If there is football this fall, the NFL is going to see a Hall of Fame talent wearing No. 91 for the Eagles.

A healthy, motivated, driven Fletcher Cox is scary news for opposing offenses. 

We're lucky to have him.

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