It unfolded pretty much the way A.J. Brown dreamed it would after he was traded to the Eagles during the 2022 NFL Draft Weekend: He and quarterback Jalen Hurts would work hard to get on the same page and build an unbreakable chemistry and then Brown would integrate into the passing game as one of the prime weapons along with wide receiver DeVonta Smith and tight end Dallas Goedert and the wins and big plays and team success would follow.
And that's exactly how it went in 2022, all the way through Super Bowl LVII. Brown caught a career-high and team-best 88 passes for a franchise-record 1,496 yards. He scored 11 touchdowns, made his second Pro Bowl and was named a second-team Associated Press All-Pro. Most important – and this is not a coincidence given the numbers Brown generated – he was on the field for 85 percent of the team's offensive snaps and generally, while he was out there, Brown was unguardable.
A team-come-true season that fell four points short of perfection.
"I took some time to watch and try to learn from the mistakes, not just from that game but from all year," Brown said. "In terms of that game, you can't dwell on it. It's life. Not everything is going to go your way and at some point, you've got to get up off the mat and get working."
That's where Brown and the Eagles are right now as they continue through the offseason program and near their Organized Team Activities that end in early June. You wonder what Brown can do for an encore in his second season with the Eagles and the truth is that he just needs to do what he does: Stay healthy, continue to perfect his craft, and ball out.
If that happens, everything else will take care of itself. The Eagles have loaded back up on offense via free agency (retaining center Jason Kelce, adding running back Rashaad Penny and wide receiver Olamide Zacchaeus), the NFL Draft (offensive lineman Tyler Steen), and the trade route (running back D'Andre Swift). There is only one football to go around, yes, but boy, is that going to be a coveted hot potato given the galaxy of talented players the Eagles have put in place.
Where does the offense improve from last season? What more can Brown do after his career year?
Consistency is the key here. The Eagles know they were good in 2022 when they had the football. They know they can be even better now.
"You can always be better," Brown said. "Being a well-rounded receiver, that's something I can always work on. The sky is the limit. I have goals and I know it takes a lot of work to achieve those goals. We're working one day at a time. That's where we are right now."
The Eagles have a long history with the wide receiver position – some years the talent has been strong and in other seasons it has been lean – and never has the offense been suited to win with so much talent and strength. Brown, with his physicality and strength, and Smith, with his smooth moves and great route running, and both players with so much heart and determination and confidence to deliver when the ball is thrown their way complement each other so perfectly. Quez Watkins brings speed and big-play skills to the group. Zaccheaus is a jack-of-all-trades tough guy who is good after the catch and who is going to help in many areas.
Strong group, as it was in 2022. Maybe even better this year top to bottom. Who knows? It's still early in the process. Brown is high on the room and sees the players challenging each other every day.
"I think, collectively, the group has taken the next step," Brown said. "We've got so many guys and so many playmakers and I feel like there are only so many opportunities and you just have to make the most of your opportunity. We're trying to build a really strong team that wins games. Right now, we're sharpening our iron, working together, and learning from each other. That's what this time of the year is all about."
Soon it will be hot and August will be near and the Eagles will be in the grind of Training Camp and we'll have a better feel for the next steps for this football team. Brown, for his part, is in the day-to-day mindset. He isn't looking ahead. He knows how it works.
"We all want to prepare our best and be ready for the season," he said. "I'm not thinking about the year. Just get better every day."
If that's the path he takes, well, you can expect more fun ahead in September and beyond. That's the goal. Stay healthy, have fun, and win games.