When the Ravens drafted safety Terrence Brooks in the third round of the 2014 draft, it seemed like only a matter of time until he would find himself in the starting lineup.
But Brooks has been slow out of the gate during his first two years of the NFL, as he's had to overcome a serious knee injury and a handful of other issues early in his career.
As he heads into training camp this summer, Brooks is out to prove he can make it at the NFL level and handle a larger role in the defense.
"I feel like I'm a much better player than I was," he said at the conclusion of mandatory minicamp. "I'm a lot more comfortable and confident."
Brooks is in the middle of a tight competition at safety. The top two spots are anchored by veteran newcomer Eric Weddle and converted cornerback Lardarius Webb, and Brooks is battling with Matt Elam and Kendrick Lewis for a reserve role. The Ravens could also use one of those players as a slot cornerback or roving linebacker.
As young safeties who came to Baltimore with big expectations around them, Brooks and Elam are in somewhat similar situations going into training camp. They're fighting with each other for snaps this summer and their teammates have taken notice of the strides they've made.
When asked during a fan conference call which players have caught his eye, Weddle pointed specifically to Brooks and Elam.
"I think [they] are ready to take the next step and carve out a role and get on the field," Weddle said. "They both are extremely talented, they're eager to learn, they're eager to get out there and help and be a Raven. I know both have struggled with injuries and up and down play, but it's exciting to see their growth."
Brooks will have to capitalize on his reps wherever they come during training camp and the preseason. He mostly worked with the reserves during the offseason practices, but that could change if he shines in July and August.
"I still have more work to do, but I definitely feel like I've taken big steps to earn a spot on this team," he said.
Brooks also acknowledged that the start of his career has not gone the way he wanted or expected.
The knee injury his rookie season set him back, and he ended up playing just 67 defensive snaps last year. He said Head Coach John Harbaugh "has been hard on me" about past mistakes, and he went into the offseason focused on getting a better grasp on the mental side of the game. "I've learned from all the mistakes that I've had. I've pretty much corrected them, and now it's really going out there and making plays," Brooks said. "They expect a lot out of me and I expect a lot out of myself. For me to me to go in here and have a great training camp, and pretty much dominate, that should get me to where I want to be on this team."