Brandon Brooks made some changes in his life following the most successful year of his professional career. One of them was moving to New Jersey.
It was time for a change, the Pro Bowl guard said, so he moved from the "heart of downtown" Philadelphia to "suburbia" and it took some time to adjust.
"It's good, man. It's quiet," Brooks said after practice on Sunday. "The neighbors are peaceful. The only thing new for me is you have to go right to turn left, which threw me off, and you can't pump gasoline by yourself but you can pump diesel by yourself. So I pulled up to a diesel pump and was just sitting there like 10 minutes later like, 'Hey are you going to help me," and the guy looked at me like, 'Dude. It's diesel. What are you doing?'"
Luckily for Brooks, fitting back into the Eagles' offensive line for the 2018 season will not require as much adjusting as learning the nuances of South Jersey. The Eagles bring back all of their starters from last season, keeping together a core of players who have played with each other, grown with each other, and taught each other for the last few seasons.
"I think the biggest thing is it's not just about me but it's about all five of us being on the same page so just trying to get that chemistry better and better," Brooks said. "Being able to keep the group together for the last couple of years has been great. I don't think it takes as long for our camaraderie to get back. Say we come off a vacation or the offseason going into OTAs, I don't think it takes as long as other teams with new guys coming in."
Brooks comes into this season as an established veteran after starting all 19 regular-season and playoff games at right guard in the 2017 Super Bowl run, earning his first Pro Bowl nod in his sixth professional year. For 2018, his new personal goal is be named to the All-Pro team.
Offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland told reporters on Friday that he believes Brooks is the best right guard in the NFL and that he does not get the recognition he deserves. While Brooks' goal for the season shows he wants to at least be in that conversation, he does not need the hype and attention to have a successful year.
"I feel like there's a debate when it comes to that," Brooks said. "I'll be honest, I'm not the biggest social media guy. I'm not the biggest household name type of guy. I think the fans, the coaches, and players around the league know that I'm a good player, so that's just kind of how I look at it. I'm not a big flash, rah-rah guy so it's all good."
"He's different this year when it comes to that," Stoutland said. "That's definitely a fact. Brandon Brooks, now he's established himself as, I think, the best in the business at what he does, at his position. But Brooks is a smart guy. He's always looking for a new challenge. He's always looking for something he can do to make himself even better and I think he's taken that role on this year even better."
One of the roles Brooks has taken on to improve himself is that of a mentor to the younger players, specifically rookie guard Matt Pryor. Brooks has spent extra time after practice on multiple occasions working with Pryor the way he said left tackle Jason Peters and right tackle Lane Johnson have done for him and others.
"Honestly, I look at Pryor like a young me," Brooks said. "As with anything new, you have to fine tune it a bit. I had guys that took me under their wing ... and I'm just trying to cut the learning curve a little bit because through trial and error, there are things that I've learned thing that I've had to learn the hard way. I'm just trying to help him out and trying to make him as successful as he can be."
Brooks still implements parts of Peters' and Johnson's play into his own game. He also gave enthusiastic praise to Stoutland. When speaking with reporters after Thursday's preseason opener against the Steelers, offensive tackle Jordan Mailata introduced the saying, "In Stout We Trust."
"Damn, what a great saying," said Brooks after hearing it for the first time. "That's exactly the case. It's always 'In Stout We Trust,' man. Through thick and thin, Stout always has our back, Stout's always looking out for our best interests, and because of the type of person he is, we're willing to run through a wall for that guy."
Brooks has seen incredible support from Stoutland, whom he called the best offensive line coach he's ever had, and his teammates in his two seasons in Philadelphia. Brooks was very open about his battles with anxiety and the role that Stoutland played in helping him two seasons ago.
That support is what Brooks loves about playing for the Eagles and it's what he hopes he can pass down to others as he asserts his role as yet another accomplished, veteran leader on one of best - if not the best - offensive lines in the league.
"Those dudes have my back ride or die, man, knowing that in the darker of situations, like two years ago with my anxiety, going through that, at the end of the day, Stout was in my corner through thick and thin, even to the point where he was like, 'I'm not even concerned with this football stuff right now. I'm concerned for you as a person,'' Brooks said. "You don't get that everyday. I'd run through a wall for any one of these coaches because at the end of the day, we're a family. It's all love here."