Hearts Sink for Brandon Brooks as Heads Turn Toward Matt Pryor
Hall of Fame coach Bill Parcells has dished out plenty of wisdom to members of his coaching tree over the years.
“Four or five things happen in pro football every day that you wish wouldn't happen,” Parcells told Mike Zimmer when the long-time assistant finally got the big chair in Minnesota. “If you can't handle those, you need to get another job”.
Doug Pederson had one of those kinds of days Monday while working from his South Jersey home, still social-distancing in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic and fresh off ending the first virtual offseason for Eagles players.
Pro Bowl guard Brandon Brooks, meanwhile, was one of the few players allowed at the NovaCare Complex because the veteran was rehabbing from a season-ending shoulder dislocation. And just like that, the fickle nature of pro football reared its ugly head when the 6-foot-5, 340-pound star suffered another torn Achilles, this one on the left side.
In his tweet confirming the injury, Brooks wrote: “When life gives you lemons you make lemonade. I’ll be back and better than ever. Appreciate the love.”
Maybe it shouldn’t have been a surprise after Brooks’ amazing eight-month recovery from a January 2019 right Achilles’ tear against New Orleans in the playoffs had him back on the field for Week 1 in September of last season.
As the weeks passed and Brooks battled Indianapolis star Quenton Nelson for the title of best OG in the NFL, few took into account the nature of the injury and how lighter players are susceptible to tears on the other side due to the body naturally favoring one side while putting itself through the rehab for the original injury.
It happened to the Eagles twice in recent years with linebackers DeMeco Ryans and Jordan Hicks and now Brooks is in the same category after tearing the opposite side while running.
The concern for Brooks is real with Pederson saying his “heart sunk” after hearing the news.
“This guy has worked extremely hard to get himself back and back in shape, back in playing shape to have a solid 2020 season. So obviously we feel for him,” Pederson said. “To have to go through this again, but we know that he'll push through and he's done a great job with all his rehab and getting himself back, so we're very confident there.”
In the coming days, however, reality will set in and the Eagles need to come up with a plan to replace one of their best players.
In-house the easiest path would be pulling the trigger on Matt Pryor, a 2018 sixth-round pick, who proved serviceable at the position in a short stint last season.
Other young players available are two undrafted rookies from 2019 -- Sua Opeta and Nate Herbig -- as well as 2020 fourth-round pick Jack Driscoll, who played right tackle at Auburn but is projected to move inside by the Eagles.
The lack of grass time has affected the evaluation of younger players, however.
“I think 32 teams are probably sitting here today saying ‘I wish we had OTAs. I wish we had a chance to evaluate some of our draft picks and players on our team, even the free agents, new to the team," the coach said. “I don’t want to call it a setback."
The sense of urgency will be elevated early in training camp.
"[Pryor] played last year at the end of the year and these [young players] have to understand there’s a little bit of a sense of urgency once we get into training camp," Pederson admitted. "Things are going to move fast and we as coaches need to evaluate these players. I have to put them in a position to be successful to show what they can do. And that’s everything we’re in the process of doing right now.”
The shuffling-chairs option might be making Jeffrey Lurie happy by re-signing Jason Peters and kicking the future Hall of Famer inside to left guard while sliding the versatile Isaac Seumalo over to RG although O-Line coach Jeff Stoutland is never fond of multiple moving parts.
Outside the organization, the sexiest options are Larry Warford, who might be too expensive, and Kyle Long, the brother of Chris Long who recently retired but is already having second thoughts. The latter will certainly only hear good things about the organization from his older brother.
“ We obviously haven't made any decisions,” Pederson said. “We are going to take a look at a lot of different scenarios, different possibilities and we have some time before training camp to try to sort these things out. At this time, we are just feeling for Brandon and want to make sure everything goes smoothly with him and getting him back on track.”
-John McMullen contributes Eagles coverage for SI.com's EagleMaven and is the NFL Insider for JAKIB Media. You can listen to John every Monday and Friday on SIRIUSXM’s Tony Bruno Show with Harry Mayes, and every Tuesday and Thursday with Eytan Shander on SBNation Radio. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @JFMcMullen