PHILADELPHIA — When the Philadelphia Eagles traded for wide receiver A.J. Brown from the Tennessee Titans in 2022 in exchange for a first-round draft pick and a brand new contract extension, they changed the course of the franchise.
Brown has been a great receiver since he first stepped foot in the league, but lately he has become a dominant one who is capable of bowling through NFL secondaries.
Brown’s presence is giving the Eagles' offense answers when Philly doesn’t have one, and his connection with quarterback Jalen Hurts has the Eagles flying high right now. In a year when the Eagles are going through a transition at offensive coordinator with Brian Johnson, Brown and Hurts have the talent and rapport to stabilize this offense in just about any circumstance.
"This week at practice, A.J. was having an unbelievable practice," Eagles head coach Nick Sirianni said, "and I went up to [team owner Jeffrey Lurie] and I go ... 'Thanks for the hundred million dollars to pay A.J. Brown. I really appreciate that.'"
Brown is on a tear. He caught 10 passes for 137 yards and a touchdown in Sunday night's win over the Miami Dolphins, and he now has five straight games of at least 125 receiving yards. Brown’s 809 receiving yards this season are the most in Eagles history through the first seven games of any season.
If Brown can keep up the pace he would finish the season with 1,965 yards and seven touchdowns — one of the greatest wide receiver seasons of all time. With Brown and Hurts playing like this, the Eagles have a greater margin for error as they still get used to Johnson pulling the strings as offensive coordinator.
"He's a great player, and he works really hard to be what he is and do what he's doing, and we need that," Hurts said of Brown.
There’s still room for them to improve. The down-to-down consistency of the Eagles’ dropback game still needs refinement, even if Philadelphia is producing positive results on these plays. A handful of connections between Hurts and Brown happen outside the structure of the offense, which is where the improvisation talent of the two really shines.
The out-of-structure work is always going to be one of the core pillars of any offense that features Hurts, but if the Eagles can find some concepts that they really feel comfortable running, they can take this passing game to a level that will make this offense unstoppable. They’ve found life on the ground with D’Andre Swift this season and have a quarterback-wide receiver duo that’s stretching the limits of every defense they come across, even with Hurts playing through an injury that required a knee brace against the Dolphins.
"He's real tough, man," Brown said. "I don't want to put his business out there, but just know he's a tough individual, man. He's putting us in good positions to win."
According to the NFL’s Next Gen Stats, Brown ranks third in passing targets on plays where it takes more than four seconds for the quarterback to throw the ball. He has turned his 11 targets into five catches for 123 yards. Comparatively, Eagles receiver DeVonta Smith ranks fourth in targets in the same scenario and has converted his 10 targets into just two catches for 47 yards. Hurts and Brown have chemistry that’s on a different level right now.
This is the development that the Eagles needed to see from this duo to potentially get back to the Super Bowl. There hasn’t been a team yet that has the defensive talent to slow this connection down. Beyond the skills of Hurts and Brown, they’re a physically imposing duo in the passing game, which is a shift from the more standard prolific pass game duos in the NFL. Hurts is a difficult player for defenders to get on the ground and his strength and balance helps him extend plays. Brown has the strength of a middle linebacker paired with the speed and technical skill of a wide receiver. They’re difficult to stop when they get into playmaking mode.
Hurts and Brown are going to be fixtures in this league for a long time, and they’ve already established themselves as one of the most exciting duos in Eagles history. The next stop for Hurts, Brown and the rest of the team is a Super Bowl title — a task that looks within reach based on the play of their two best players.