Over the next three weeks leading up to training camp, we’ll be counting down the top 20 most important Eagles for the 2021 season.
10. Brandon Brooks
If you’re doubting Brandon Brooks as he returns from an Achilles tear, do so at your own risk.
Because if there’s one guy who can do it, it’s him.
Sure, Brooks will be 32 by the time the season starts and it’s true that he’s coming off a lost season after suffering an Achilles injury last June. And there were even some rumors floating around that the Eagles were trying to trade him in the offseason before he restructured his contract. So I get why, on paper, there are reasons to doubt that Brooks will regain his Pro Bowl form in 2021.
But this dude’s a cyborg.
“I think the biggest thing that everybody is forgetting is I've torn my Achilles before,” Brooks said in May. “And when I came back, I was the best. Period. So with that being said, what tells you it’ll be any different this time? That’s exactly how I feel.”
He’s right. Brooks tore his right Achilles in that Saints playoff game at the end of the 2018 season and didn’t just come back in 2019, he came back and played at the highest level we’ve ever seen from him on his way to making a third consecutive Pro Bowl. In fact, in 2019, Brooks was ProFootballFocus’s top ranked offensive lineman and was a pretty egregious snub from the All Pro team.
So from his perspective, there’s no reason why he can’t do that again after recovering from a torn left Achilles. Heck, this time he even knew exactly what the recovery process would entail and he’s well over a year removed from the injury and surgery.
The injury to Brooks last June was just the first in a long line of injuries suffered along the offensive line. They initially replaced him with Jason Peters, but then ended up using four different players at right guard throughout the season.
This year, Brooks returns next to Lane Johnson. There are plenty of folks who doubt the 30+ year old tandem, but if they’re both able to return to Pro Bowl form, all of a sudden, the Eagles’ offensive line is stacked.
Whenever I think of Brooks’ value to the Eagles, I think back to Jason Kelce’s comments in April of 2019 as he thought back to the divisional round loss to the Saints. There were several reasons why the Eagles’ 2018 season ended in New Orleans but Kelce said he would argue the Eagles were “a hurt right guard” away from heading back to the NFC Championship Game.
It might be hard to understand how an offensive guard can be so valuable to a team. The guard position isn’t flashy and those players don’t get the recognition tackles seem to. But as the NFL has flipped and as interior pass rushers have become monsters, the position in general is important.
And another reason? There just simply aren’t many guards like Brooks. He’s a 335-340-pound freak who can run block as well as anyone and also get 20 yards downfield and pave the way for a screen.
Getting him back at full strength this season would mean an awful lot.
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