By: Justin Goldberg
A.J. Brown is having an historic season, helping the Philadelphia Eagles, last year’s Super Bowl runner ups, to a 10-2 record. Brown has already broken Hall-of-Famer Calvin Johnson’s record by recording six consecutive games with at least 125 receiving yards. After week 13, Brown has racked up 81 receptions for 1,1164 yards and 7 touchdowns, already the second-most receiving yards in a season in his career.
However, as someone who’s been following Brown for his entire career, the numbers he is currently putting up aren't shocking. What makes Brown so special is his generational talent.
Brown’s physical dominance at the wide receiver position is something that we haven’t seen in a while. Dare I say ever? At the catch point, it’s way too difficult for a defensive back to break up a pass due to Brown’s 6’1 225 lb frame, how strong he is, how great his hands are, his ability to make ridiculous out of frame catches, the elite ball tracking and contested catch ability he possesses, and his natural football instincts.
Brown also has one of the game’s best yards after catch ability as his previously mentioned physical dominance makes it extremely hard for a defensive back to tackle him in the open field where Brown showcases his running back-like contact-balance, great speed and explosiveness, and elite tackle-breaking ability.
Brown is also a phenomenal route runner, getting open a lot more than the vast majority of other receivers. Even though Brown’s routes aren’t always flashy like routes run by Stefon Diggs, Devante Adams or Justin Jefferson, he usually gets open due to his strength within the first five yards, excellent release when he’s not being physically matched, great acceleration on the straight parts of his routes, elite body control on double moves, elite footwork, and elite ball tracking.
Brown is impossible to press at the line of scrimmage because of how strong and explosive he is, he’s extremely hard to be jumped on routes because of his size and his ability to execute double moves, he’s one of the hardest players to bring down in the open field because of his size, speed, and strength, and it’s very difficult to break up passes when matched up on him due to his ridiculous size, strength, hands, and instincts. All of these factors place A.J. Brown in the tier of wide receivers I label as “unguardable.”
Brown has always been a player I put more value on than the majority of the NFL community; this season so far is another example of what he is capable of doing when he has the proper amount of targets from quarterback Jalen Hurts.
Now that we know that Brown’s traits are so special, let's talk about the impact he has on the offense. Brown’s unique, effective skill set allows him to generate space opening up the team's offense. We saw how much Tannehill and the Titans offense struggled without Brown rostered and how much Hurts and the Eagles offense received with Brown’s addition in 2022.
There are no coincidences as to why this happened, as his skillset catches the eye of coaches around the league. There really isn’t much of a game plan that hinders him besides leaving other parts of the defense wide open. The most common strategy we’ve seen are defenses putting their best cornerbacks on Devonta Smith, the Eagles wide receiver 2, and then doubling Brown with two other corners. However, this allows for the Eagles to dominate teams on the ground and over the middle of the field. Brown would be used as a decoy to clear out and open the field for the rest of the team.
This is an ineffective defense for a few different reasons. The Eagles can attack them a lot of different ways outside of Brown, so committing to only stopping him is just allowing for the rest of the offense to have a field day. Another reason is that Brown can just beat the double teams pretty easily and still get open way more than the defense would like. As stated before, Brown has generational physical dominance and Yards After Catch ability, so it’s not like an extra corner that isn’t even the best on his own team is going to make a huge difference.
Brown has been dominating the stat sheet this year, but his talent that caught my eye since he was a rookie makes this less surprising to me than other NFL fans. Half-way through the year he’s having his best year as a pro.
Let's see what else he has in store for us this year.