When Brandon Brooks joined the Eagles in 2016, one of his new offensive linemates introduced a concept that perplexed the guard.
Lane Johnson, the team’s right tackle, wanted them to make a play each game that would get the attention of their next opponent when that team watched the game film. Brooks wasn’t sure he understood.
“He always used to say, especially when I first got here, ‘Let’s put something on tape for the next team to wow them,’ ” Brooks said. “When they watch that they’d be like ‘Holy [cow].’ Early on here, I was like what the [heck] is this guy talking about? But now I see what he was saying, the potential that he saw in our side even way back when.”
Johnson was a 2013 first-round pick entering his fourth season. Brooks was one of the team’s big free-agency signings after he spent his first four years with Houston. Four seasons later, the two have evolved into the best run-blocking tandem in the NFL, and their new contract extensions reflect it.
Johnson and the Eagles agreed to a four-year, $72 million extension Friday with $54.595 million guaranteed, making him the highest-paid offensive lineman in NFL history per year and in guarantees, according to an NFL source.
Brooks signed a four-year, $56.2 million deal earlier this month, making him the highest-paid guard in the NFL, with his $14.05 million annual salary edging Dallas guard Zack Martin’s $14 million.
“I think we’ve come a long way,” said Johnson, who had two years left on a five-year, $56 million contract. “Since we’ve worked together, the better we’ve become. I think we’ve become the best right side in the league, but the beauty about this game is you have to go prove it each and every week. I’m blessed to play next to him.”
The two are expected to reunite on the field Sunday for what would be their first full game together in nearly a month.
Brooks missed most of Sunday’s loss to Seattle with an illness brought on by an anxiety condition. It’s the second time in his career that he’s been sidelined for that reason, but the 30-year-old returned to practice this week and is hopeful to be back on the field against the Dolphins.
Johnson missed the better part of the last two games, both losses in which the offense struggled mightily, with a concussion sustained in the first half of the Eagles’ 17-10 loss to the New England Patriots. The 2017 All-Pro tackle was cleared for contact, was a full participant in practice this week, and is expected to play.
The Eagles have scored just one touchdown in seven quarters since Johnson’s departure. Against a Seahawks defense missing Jadeveon Clowney, the offensive line struggled to protect Carson Wentz, allowing three sacks and 19 pressures on 51 pass attempts. After Johnson left against the Patriots, the Eagles surrendered five sacks.
“Any time you lose a player of that caliber, it’s going to hurt you,” Brooks said of Johnson after the Patriots game. “Guys like Lane Johnson don’t grow on trees."
Guys like Brooks don’t, either. The tandem has been the best two-man blocking group in the NFL this season, according to Pro Football Focus.
Brooks, a two-time Pro Bowler, is the site’s highest-graded offensive lineman. Johnson is ranked fifth. Indianapolis and Dallas each have two linemates in the top 10, but no other team has two top-five blockers like the Eagles.
Johnson came up with the idea of putting eye-catching plays on tape, but Brooks was the one who pushed the concept further.
“Now I find myself talking to him that way,” Brooks said. “Instead of just putting a play on there, why don’t we put a series on there? Why don’t we put a quarter on there, or a half?”
The last time Brooks and Johnson played a full game together was against Chicago on Nov. 3, before the team’s bye week. That was also the last time they achieved the goal of putting something special on tape, Brooks said.
“We consider ourselves the best, run or pass, in the league,” Brooks said. “We were clicking and in sync.”
This article contains information from staff writer Jeff McLane.