By Angel Maldonado
The Philadelphia Eagles suffered a devastating loss this week as offensive guard Brandon Brooks tore his achilles. The injury, which occurred as Brooks was practicing a 60 yard shuttle, will keep him out for the entirety of the 2020 season. In addition to being a massive blow to the team’s Super Bowl aspirations, the loss of Brooks leaves a significant hole in the Eagles offensive line.
Impact on Carson Wentz
Wentz cannot catch a break. Last season, he lost each of his starting wideouts for extended periods of time and struggled to throw the ball downfield with a rag-tag group of replacements, led by the likes of converted quarterback Greg Ward and rookie J.J Arcega-Whiteside. Despite these circumstances, Wentz was able to lead the Eagles to the NFC East title largely due to the strength of the Eagles’ offensive line. That very same offensive line is going to need to step up dramatically without the presence of Brooks, PFF”s highest graded guard in 2019. Per PFF, Brooks allowed just one sack and 19 pressures on a total 647 pass plays, incredible metrics which highlight just how dominant and valuable the former pro bowler was in 2019. Without the league’s best guard protecting him, Wentz will see a lot more defenders in his face, a possibility which could lead him to be hit more frequently, a daunting prospect given his injury history. Brooks’s likely replacement, Matt Pryor, has the potential to be a 75% version of Brooks, but there’s no guarantee that he even reaches that ceiling. Losing Brooks and Jason Peters in the same offseason is not a good way to head into 2020 for the former MVP candidate, but he’s not going to be the one that is most affected by his lineman’s injury.
Impact on Miles Sanders
Miles Sanders is projected by many to be the NFL’s next breakout running back. The loss of Brandon Brooks, however, is going to make life more difficult for the former Penn State standout. While Brooks was impressive in pass protection, it was in the run-blocking department that he excelled the most. Per PFF, Brooks earned an overall grade of 91.4 on running plays in 2019 (best mark among qualified linemen in the league). PFF’s grading scale rewards consistency and a rating of that magnitude exemplifies just how often Brooks is able to create lanes for his running backs/ensure no defenders close the gap.
Take a look at the following inside zone run as an example:
On that play alone, Brooks (#79) engages two defenders and completely takes them out of the play, allowing his running back to go virtually untouched for a 12 yard gain. BroosThat is the sort of blocking Miles Sanders was going to enjoy seeing behind Brooks. Unfortunately, it’ll be up to Pryor to open up the lanes for Sanders now.
In addition to his run game prowess, Brooks’ work in the screen game was a major reason why Sanders averaged 8.2 yards per target in 2019. His athleticism allowed him to run down the field and engage defenders long enough for Sanders to get past them for major yardage. That athleticism is going to be difficult to replace regardless of who replaces Brooks this year.
The Eagles still have a great offensive line and should rely on Sanders and their run game heavily this season. With his explosiveness and potential added touches, Sanders should remain a lock for high-end RB2 production most weeks. That being said, the ceiling of the Eagles’ run game has been lowered and it wouldn’t be surprising to see Sanders struggle against some of the top run defenses in the league this year due to the loss of Brandon Brooks.