Philadelphia Eagles News

Spadaro: What will A.J. Brown do for an encore?

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What does he do in his second game as an Eagle? How does wide receiver A.J. Brown follow up on a 10-catch, 155-yard debut last Sunday? He keeps it simple because – as much excitement as he has about playing at Lincoln Financial Field for the first time, in prime time to boot, against a very good Minnesota Vikings team – football is football and this one represents another step in the story that is the 2022 regular season.

That said, there is something special about this one for Brown. He's talked from Day 1 after he became an Eagle about the "love" he's received from Eagles fans – and yes, fans, you do make a really big difference and the players and the team do hear you – and so to run out through the tunnel and onto the field for the first time in a game that counts for so much has special significance.

Brown is someone who cherishes that relationship and who is living and breathing and enjoying every single moment as an Eagle. So while Monday is "just another game," as he's said, there is a special Midnight Green tint to the occasion.

"I'm very excited for the first home game," Brown said. "I just think the place is going to be on fire. I keep hearing so much about it. I just think the place is going to be electric. It's going to be tough to play in there if I'm the opposing team."

Brown quickly understood the passion Eagles fans have after the team acquired him from Tennessee on the first night of the 2022 NFL Draft and he has appreciated every bit of it. The relationship is a positive one in every way, and now we are all eager to see what happens now that a defensive coaching staff has taken its first look at the Eagles' offense and has seen some of the ways Brown will be used in the passing game.

In Detroit, Brown did his damage in so many ways – quick hitches and catch-and-runs from the slot, shallow crossing routes, speed routes on the outside. He did damage at every level against the Lions, hence the receiving yardage total that ranked second in the NFL in Week 1.

But that is just one game and a small sample in the big picture of a 17-game season. We are likely to see a feeling-out period on Monday night as the Eagles see how the Vikings' defense plays it against Brown and the other potent pass-catching weapons here, including wide receivers DeVonta Smith, Quez Watkins, and Zach Pascal, along with tight end Dallas Goedert. The first few weeks of a season contain so many unknowns as teams continue in this period of discovery. What will the Vikings do to limit Brown, who understands that "definitely there is going to be a lot of attention on me"? How do the Eagles counterpunch that defensive approach?

"We have a lot of playmakers and options," Smith said. "That's a key to a great offense and we know that, while we scored 31 points (from the offense solely) last week, we have a lot more in us. We all have to be ready when the opportunity presents itself. Control what you can control and that's being ready when your number is called."

Minnesota's defensive scheme is similar to what the Eagles run with multiple fronts and pressure packages. Minnesota played a lot of combinations of zone coverages in its win over Green Bay last week, a convincing performance in a 23-7 win over Green Bay.

The respect goes both ways here, setting the stage for a special night on center stage.

Brown is in the middle of the storm and he's keeping his mind where his feet are. He limits his social media during the season, he said, to not allow any comments – positive or otherwise – to seep into his mindset. The focus is on A.J. Brown.

"It's me against me. I don't believe my own hype," he said. "I've gotta come in and work each and every day. It can get into your head. Everybody wants to hear good things about him. But I just try to focus on me. I feed myself whatever thoughts I need to feed myself before the game or practice. I get myself prepared. I don't want it to come from an outsider."

Well, there is going to be a lot of outside love for Brown and for the Eagles on Monday night, and it will all be welcomed. They call it "home-field advantage" for a reason. The energy, the passion, the sharing of the mission, it's all critical to the team's success.

To close the loop, then, and answer the question of what Brown gives in his second game after such a tremendous debut, he just goes out and plays his game. He resists comparisons to any Eagles receivers in the past – and you know the name in mind – and he would rather not even enter that conversation. He's just A.J. Brown, a football player who has been embraced by a football community and an organization and has given it all right back.

"All love," he said, "from the very start. I'm looking forward to this game because it's a home opener and it's a big game, it's Monday Night Football and hopefully as a team we just try not to, like, make the game bigger than it is and just play the game. We're just trying to go 1-0 this week."

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