Ford: Brooks has Eagles' O-line on a roll

Brandon Brooks 552716-combo-A
New Eagles right guard Brandon Brooks is living in Center City, plans to continue his pursuit of a master's degree in business administration and has tried many of the city's restaurants and its most prominent convenience store.

In the reorganized layout of the Eagles locker room at the NovaCare Complex, the offensive linemen are clustered in a back corner of the room like bears in a cave, just the way they want it.

For three years under Chip Kelly, the locker assignments were random, with a linebacker here, a running back there, a punter here, and even a quarterback dropped among the brutes like a pearl in a field of rocks.

It was interesting in a new-age kind of way, but Kelly's revolution has expired, and Doug Pederson is more of a business-as-usual guy, from the standard fundamentals of the game right down to the positional groupings in the locker room.

Back where the offensive linemen lumber, the starters have even been placed in side-by-side lockers that reflect their arrangement across the line of scrimmage. Jason Peters, Allen Barbre, Jason Kelce, Brandon Brooks, and Lane Johnson. Maybe it is wishful thinking that the locker order can remain accurate for a whole season, and not become a reminder of something gone wrong, but the Eagles are choosing to side with optimism this spring. Hard to complain about that.

Brooks, the new guy on the line, wasn't here for the revolution and didn't have to share the annoyance of dressing next to a cornerback with 6 percent body fat. He has slipped into a more familiar world, to a place where Pederson's offense is similar to West Coast schemes he knew with the Houston Texans, and where guards who go 6-foot-5 and 335 pounds are prized for their bulk rather than marked down because of it.

"I think it's going to be a little more traditional than what they had here the past couple of years," Brooks said diplomatically.

Brooks, who started 45 of 53 games in four seasons with Houston, is happy to be here, and not just because of the five-year, $40 million free agent contract he signed with the Eagles. Brooks had other options, but this one kept him at right guard and put him on a team and in a town that just felt right.

"I like everything about it. I like the owner, the GM, the coach. I'm playing with guys like JP and Kelce, who are like older brothers. If I do something wrong or have a question, they coach me up and encourage me. It's great. This feels like home to me," said Brooks, who is from Milwaukee. "You have the seasons here. The fans embrace me, my teammates embrace me. I feel like the least I can do is embrace them back."

As part of that, Brooks is living downtown, walking the streets, meeting people, and his Twitter feed (@bbrooks_79) is often a wide-ranging rundown of the eating establishments he is discovering. But if you really want to know how much of a Philadelphian the 26-year-old Brooks is becoming, you need to hear only one sentence.

"Wawa is the bomb," he said.

Well, there you have it. He's extolled the virtues of Parc and Marathon and the Green Eggs Cafe, but anyone who understands the true delight of the hoagie touch screen is one of us.

"I've been other places with convenience stores, but they don't have the quality of food that Wawa has," Brooks said. "For my go-to, I keep it simple. Ham and cheese, and I get the mac and cheese to go with it. The big hoagie. Wheat roll. Onions, lettuce. No mayo, no mustard. I was never a big condiment guy."

And for Brooks, the extra meat, extra cheese question is more rhetorical than anything else.

"Of course," he said. "And Tastykakes. The Krimpets are the real deal. Unbelievable."

With all that going for him, you can forgive a man for liking a dry hoagie, and his teammates certainly do.

"He was one of the key pieces we've been missing," said Johnson, who lines up next to him on the field and off. "He's big. He's strong. It didn't take much time for us to hit it right off. We're pretty good friends. He makes me that much better. He's the complete package. He's become one of the guys."

Fitting in with the new team and the new city extends beyond the choice between toasted and untoasted (he goes toasted). Brooks, who graduated from Miami of Ohio with a degree in psychology, is interested in learning the world of finance. He shadows business executives on occasion during the offseason and had lunch recently with Maryellen Lamb, the deputy vice dean of admissions at the Wharton School. His plan is to earn an MBA during his time in Philadelphia.

"I wouldn't mind living here when I'm done," he said. "The Northeast way of life feels good to me."

Everything looks rosy in May, of course, but playing in a system he understands and one that understands him is a big part of it. The offensive line, which struggled under Kelly, needed help. Brooks provides that, not to mention a side order of civic involvement.

"I kind of knew him, because Miami of Ohio is a big rival of Cincinnati," said defensive end Connor Barwin, who played with Brooks in 2012 in Houston. "Right away, he was one of the most athletic, powerful offensive linemen. You could see it as a rookie. And he's a good Midwestern guy. He's bought a place downtown here and embraced the city, and it's cool. He likes to go out and be around town, and Philly will like that about him."

What Philly really likes is winning, and Brooks should make that more possible. If the offensive line doesn't give up on opening holes, or give up too many sacks, or give up the precious battle for the line of scrimmage, maybe the rest of the city will join him and give up the condiments, too. At this time of year, anything's possible.