PITTSFORD – Ron Brooks has found himself in the right spot for the Buffalo Bills lately.
The rookie cornerback from LSU made an interception and broke up three passes in the team’s first preseason game Thursday against Washington.
He picked off another pass Sunday during the team’s afternoon practice at St. John Fisher College, ripping the ball away after it was bobbled by receiver Kamar Aiken on a throw by Tyler Thigpen.
Those types of big plays have Brooks firmly in the mix to be one of the team’s top five cornerbacks.
“He has done a very good job,” Bills coach Chan Gailey said. “He is kind of an underrated guy. He has a lot of ability. He just could not get on the field at LSU so people did not know a lot about him. He has some talent and I am anxious to see how he can progress. He could help us out a lot this year.”
Brooks couldn’t get on the field at LSU because the cornerbacks ahead of him, Morris Claiborne and Tyrann Mathieu, were two of the best in the country. Claiborne was the sixth overall pick by the Dallas Cowboys in April’s draft, while Mathieu was a Heisman Trophy finalist.
Brooks was saddened to hear about Mathieu’s dismissal from the Tigers last week for an undisclosed violation of team rules.
“He’s a close personal friend of mine,” Brooks said. “I’m sorry that situation happened to him. All the best of luck to him.”
Brooks said he planned to reach out to Mathieu soon.
“I’m going to talk to him, just make sure my little brother is OK, check on him,” Brooks said.
With Terrence McGee’s recovery from knee surgery leaving his status uncertain for the start of the season, Brooks has a prime opportunity right now. He’s working both in the slot and outside, which gives him some versatility.
“The more positions you can play, the easier it is to get on the field,” he said.
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The Bills didn’t have to dunk a football into a bucket of water to practice with a wet ball Sunday.
Mother Nature took care of that. Heavy rain began to fall with about 45 minutes remaining in the practice and became a downpour at times.
“It’s not something you want to do, but it’s good for us,” Gailey said. “You need a day like that so you can handle a wet ball, and everybody can talk about ball security on offense, and you can talk about stripping the ball out on defense. It was good for us.”
So how did the coach think they handled it?
“Pretty good. I think we had one ball on the ground out there. We practiced a lot of different situations from our Wildcat to our goal line to the regular offense. I thought we handled it well,” he said.
Before the rain came, Vince Young hit Scott Chandler for a 20-yard touchdown on the quarterback’s first throw during 7-on-7 work.
Other highlights: Young sold a fake handoff well and took off on a bootleg around the right side for a nice gain. … Safety George Wilson leaped in the air at the line of scrimmage to bat away a throw by Ryan Fitzpatrick. The ball nearly was intercepted by linebacker Arthur Moats before falling incomplete.
The Bills ended practice with some goal-line work, during which running back Fred Jackson scored after taking a direct snap.
Not practicing were safety Josh Nesbitt, cornerback Justin Rogers and tight end Kevin Brock. All three are expected to miss Friday’s second preseason game in Minnesota. Gailey said Rogers is the closest to returning. Brock is dealing with a shoulder injury. Defensive tackle Spencer Johnson did not participate in team drills because of a bruised shoulder.
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Jackson voiced support for former teammate Lee Evans, who was released Sunday by the Jacksonville Jaguars.
“That’s tough,” Jackson said. “I know he still can make plays. I’m hoping something happens for him. I wouldn’t mind him coming back here, to tell you the truth.
“I think he can make us better. We have great core guys here [at wide receiver] anyway, but I’m hoping something happens for him. I’m definitely going to get on the phone with him now, see how he’s feeling.”
Jackson said he thought the 31-year-old Evans would be amenable to a return.
“I’m sure he would,” Jackson said. “He was here a couple months ago, right after he signed with Jacksonville. I asked him if he had any thoughts about coming here, and he said he definitely would not mind it at all. We’ll see what happens.”
Sports Reporter Tim Grahwam contributed to this story