The Eagles battled the Lions on Sunday, and it was A.J. Brown who got off to the roaring start. It's been a while since there has been such a highly anticipated debut for a veteran addition to the receiving corps here in Eagles green, but he came through in a big, big way. While tying a career high with 155 receiving yards against Detroit, Brown set a franchise record for yards in a debut performance.
So, how did he do it? Well ... by doing a little bit of everything.
All summer on the Eagle Eye in the Sky Podcast, I discussed Brown's versatility and how valuable that will be for the Eagles' offense. This is a guy that is listed at over 6-foot-2 and 220 pounds, but can line up out wide or in the slot while impacting all three levels of the field. What do I mean by that? Take a look:
Screen game. Quick game. Intermediate game. Vertical game. It did not matter – Brown went on the aggressive and made plays. As he said after the game, "sometimes the ball just finds you," and that's exactly what happened on Sunday. Brown's 11 targets were the 10th-most in the NFL in Week 1, according to Pro Football Focus, and he made good use of those looks.
Brown wins with savvy, strength, and conviction through every stage of the rep, and he used that skill set to wreak havoc on the Detroit defense. His technical prowess really shows up against press coverage, where he consistently shows the ability to get separation against corners early in the down. I showed one example in the middle of the field above, but it happened earlier in the game as well, on the signature play in what was my favorite drive of the game.
Brown racked up 66 yards after the catch on Sunday, and 42 of those yards came AFTER contact – that led the NFL this week. Some of that production came when he lined up outside the numbers, but the veteran also saw plenty of time inside as well. In fact, 28.6 percent of Brown's snaps came in the slot on Sunday. It's not a place unfamiliar to him as Brown played the majority of his college snaps inside at Ole Miss, but that versatility is key in regards to his role in this scheme.
"One thing we always take great pride in is that when you have good playmakers, you want to move them around," Head Coach Nick Sirianni said on Monday afternoon. The coach said that's something he believes in, saying he's done that going back as far as his days with Keenan Allen in San Diego with the Chargers.
No matter where he lines up, you can be sure that Brown will find himself ready to make big plays for this Eagles offense on a weekly basis here this fall. One game in, and he definitely feels like the real deal.