When the Ravens took free safety Terrence Brooks in the third round of the 2014 draft, they filled a huge need with a great value pick. It was widely thought that Brooks would be gone by the third round and the pick received plenty of “A” grades from all the draft pundits.
But could Brooks immediately come in and start for the Ravens at the free safety position? The team has lacked a true center field type since Ed Reed moved on, and Brooks is exactly that. While Brooks is certainly no Reed, he has certain qualities that make him very likely to seize the opportunity to start.
Brooks is athletic and rangy, has plus speed (4.42 40 time), and is fluid in his movements. He covers ground quickly and shows excellent awareness and anticipation. Brooks has also shown that he has the ability to blitz and is aggressive in run support. His biggest knocks coming out of college were durability, inconsistent tackling, and that he didn’t display true ballhawking skills in college.
Incumbent starting free safety Darian Stewart is a favorite of defensive backs coach Steve Spagnuolo and has flashed at times, when he is on the field. The problem is, Stewart hasn’t played an entire season in his four year career due to various injuries. His best season came in 2011, when he played in 15 games and registered 84 tackles, 3 sacks, and a pick six.
Stewart came out of camp running as the starter with Brooks taking third team snaps. The plan is obviously to start the season with Stewart as the front runner, but the Ravens drafted Brooks for a reason. Hopefully Stewart can shake the injury bug that has plagued him to date and live up to his potential, but the team certainly can’t count on that to happen.
One thing is for certain – by acquiring Stewart in free agency and drafting Brooks, the Ravens have quickly turned a weakness into a strength. If Brooks can improve his tackling and get better at making plays on the ball, he can put a serious push on Stewart for the starting job. Either way, it is an ideal way to start the season.