When the Tennessee Titans selected Ole Miss wide receiver AJ Brown with the 51st pick in last April’s NFL Draft. It had the potential to be the steal of this class. Brown was my number one receiver before the draft. Namely because of his elite route running and good ability after the catch. Both of these skills were on show in Sunday’s season opener as Brown torched the Cleveland secondary for 100 yards.
Film Review: Brown torches the Browns
In the first clip below, Brown is up against first round pick in 2018 Denzel Ward. Brown gets a great release and has a step on Ward, before executing a wicked cut toward the centre of the field. This move shrugs off the safety and creates space between Brown and Ward. Mariota spots the separation and unleashes the throw.
The ball is ever so slightly under thrown and Brown shows the nouse more befitting a veteran than a rookie as he adjusts and catches the ball. After the catch Ward attempts to make the tackle but Brown is too strong. He shrugs off Ward and rather than going out of bounds, looks to pick up more yards.
This instinct, to gain as many yards as possible will serve AJ Brown well in his career.
The second play runs similar to the first. Brown gets a good but not great release, but creates separation with a wicked cut on the route. This time the throw is perfect from Mariota, hitting Brown in stride and bring his YAC ability into play. When Ward uses his elite speed to close the gap on Brown, AJ swats him away with a solid stiff arm and turns up field.
After the turn upfield Brown could easily step out of bounds. Damarious Randall has closed the space well at free safety and is trying to usher the receiver towards the sideline. However, Brown unleashes a wicked juke move and leaves Randall standing up. Randall then does it again to Joe Schobert before being dropped by two Browns.
Projections and Comparisons
Brown won’t reach 100 yards in every game this season. The Titans face some good secondaries over the coming weeks. However, if Mariota can continue to play with the precision of this week, then Brown will have plenty of chances. On this weekends showing, Brown has the potential for a special rookie campaign, 1000 yards is a distinct possibility.
In college Brown reminded me of Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Juju Smith-Schuster, his NFL usage is similar also. Good YAC ability and great hands combined with elite route running do quicken the transition from college to the NFL. On first look Brown has made this transition brilliantly. I can’t wait to see more from him this season.
Image – The Athletic