Ron Brooks told us, but no one wanted to believe him.
Way back when the Eagles signed the veteran cornerback to a three-year contract in early March, Brooks said he was “coming here to start.”
At the time, with Leodis McKelvin and Eric Rowe and Nolan Carroll, the idea that this career special teamer was going to come to a new city and be a starter seemed unlikely, almost funny.
Brooks might get the last laugh.
“That was what I expected out of myself coming to a new team, just trying to establish myself,” the 27-year-old said after Sunday’s open practice at the Linc. “I got tired of being looked at as [a backup]. I really wanted to establish myself on this defense and with this team and in this city as somebody that can be counted on.”
So far, the Eagles are counting on him.
Throughout the spring and early in training camp, Brooks was lining up as the starter opposite his former Bills teammate Leodis McKelvin in the team’s base defense. When the team went into nickel, Brooks was moving inside to take the role as a slot corner.
Over the past couple of days, Carroll has been lining up as that starter in the base package, but Brooks has shown he’s capable of doing both.
“That inside corner nickel spot is a -- it's a different animal, obviously, than being on the outside on the perimeter,” head coach Doug Pederson said. “There's a lot more – the physical nature of that spot, as well, being able to tackle and take on blockers. He's done a nice job there. We'll continue to watch it, monitor that, get as many reps as we can in there. But all the confidence in the world with him being able to transition inside and out.”
Brooks said it’s not difficult to move from outside to slot corner and back. He admitted there’s a difference between the two positions – the biggest being the routes receivers run against him – but he uses the same technique.
He feels comfortable playing either spot.
“Since I started playing defense, I’ve always trained at both positions,” he said. “It’s not that hard to transition from corner to nickel or nickel to corner.”
Brooks was drafted by the Bills in the fourth round of the 2012 draft out of LSU. Since then, he’s been good on special teams but always a backup on defense.
He has just three career starts and the most defensive snaps he’s ever had came as a rookie in 2012. His 161 snaps that year accounted for just 14.80 percent of the Bills’ defensive snaps that year, which isn’t much, but is the highest total of his four-year career. Last year, he played just 52 snaps – 4.78 percent.
In Year 5 in the NFL, it looks like he could get the most work of his career.
But with guys like Carroll, Rowe and rookie Jalen Mills pushing him daily, Brooks admits he feels the pressure.
“That’s why I say I’m trying to establish myself here on this defense, because we have a whole secondary of guys that can play and contribute and be starters,” he said. “I think having that type of group makes the work ethic that much better in our secondary and on our team.”