Two days into last year’s free agency period, the New England Patriots and Terrence Brooks agreed to join forces on a two-year contract. While the deal itself did not guarantee the veteran safety and special teamer a spot on the roster, he was still able to carve out a rather prominent role on New England’s 53-man squad: Brooks saw regular action in the kicking game and also served as the team’s number four safety alongside Devin McCourty, Patrick Chung and Duron Harmon.
With Chung and Harmon no longer part of the team — the former exercised the Coronavirus opt-out clause, the latter was traded to the Detroit Lions — the road is now clear for Brooks to take on an even bigger role within the secondary. With a little more than a week of training camp’s full-pads portion now behind him, it seems as if the 28-year-old is taking advantage of his opportunity.
Despite New England adding veteran free agents Adrian Phillips and Cody Davis this offseason, and investing a second-round draft pick in Kyle Dugger, Brooks has seen regular action in the secondary this summer as a potential number two safety alongside McCourty. Building on the experience he gained during his first season in the system, he is quietly having a quality camp and positioning himself well in the battle for a spot on the 2020 roster.
“I’m absorbing information from everyone,” said Brooks during a media conference call following Tuesday’s practice. “Learning press stuff from [Stephon Gilmore]. Learning cool things to look for in the backend from Dev. It’s a lot of things I’m picking up on and still trying to learn from. Hopefully, wherever the coaches put me I can do it and perform.”
Being able to perform in various roles has allowed Brooks to build an NFL career that is now entering its seventh season. A former third-round draft pick by the Baltimore Ravens, he spent time with the Philadelphia Eagles and New York Jets before arriving in New England last year. Along the way, Brooks was used as a core special teamer, a free safety and — just in 2019 — a box safety in the mold of Patrick Chung.
Needless to say that versatility has been a big theme for him.
“I’m just trying to stay versatile,” the veteran defensive back said. “Last year, I played a lot in the box, kind of modeling what Patrick Chung did. This year, I feel like I’m still doing a lot of things and still learning every position to make sure whenever my name is called I’m able to fill in at any position. For the most part, just trying to be a commander of the defense too. Just going out there trying to be the quarterback of that side of the ball. Just learning as much as I can.”
In 2019, Brooks appeared in 15 of the Patriots’ regular season games as well as the team’s lone playoff contest. He was on the field for 26.2 percent of defensive snaps as a rotational safety and an additional 37.6 percent in the kicking game. This year, he is looking to further increase his role by allowing himself to take on new responsibilities — an approach to preparation he thinks every defensive back should have.
“We should learn corner, we should learn strong safety, we should learn free, we should learn dime, nickel. You should know all of that stuff because that’s going to help you with anything you’re doing in the defense,” he said.
“Whenever Coach asks you to go out to a different position you want to perform well and know what you’re doing. That way, when the game comes and adversity happens you go in there and guys aren’t too worried because you know what to do, you know the communication is going to be good. That’s what we are getting a chance to do now. I feel like everyone should embrace it.”