Eagles WR A.J. Brown credits his baseball roots to his NFL success

Eagles a.j brown
PHILADELPHIA, PA – AUGUST 12: Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver AJ Brown (11) runs a route during pre-season game between the New York Jets and the Philadelphia Eagles on August 12, 2022 at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia PA. (Photo by Andy Lewis/Icon Sportswire)

Pro Bowl wideout A.J Brown began his Eagles career with a bang in the season opener.

The 6-foot-1, 226-pound receiver lit up the Lions’ secondary and erupted for 10 catches and 155 yards on 13 targets. His 155 yards were the most by any Eagle in their debut.

“I know there are some greats that played here before me,” Brown said after the game. “It’s kind of overwhelming that I get to scratch my name in that book. I’m blessed.”

Brown was simply unbelievable in his debut, but according to his teammates, fans should grow accustomed to this style of play.

A.J. was A.J. today,” Eagles wide receiver Zach Pascal said after the game. “I wasn’t surprised by nothing he did today. That’s A.J.”

From the first whistle to the last, Brown had his way with the Detroit secondary. In the first half alone, the former second-round pick posted 128 yards, the most of any receiver in the Jalen Hurts era at the time.

One thing that makes the Eagles wide receiver so dangerous is his innate ability to track deep passes. Since 2020, Brown’s 14.7 yards per reception is the ninth highest in the NFL amongst players with at least 75 catches during that span.

A.J. Brown’s baseball roots

The former Ole Miss wideout is a big play machine that routinely reels in contested passes down the field. Oddly enough, Brown attributes this skill to his experience on the baseball diamond, not the gridiron.

I tell a lot of guys, ‘Man, you catch the ball with your eyes,'” Brown told ESPN in a 2020 story. “Baseball really helped me out with that for football. When you are tracking a ball, especially a deep ball, it helps me a lot. I played center field in baseball. On a deep pass in football, you judge it and go track it just like a center fielder.

AJ Brown was a star third baseman for the Starkville High baseball team. The Jackson Clarion-Ledger reported that he hit well in his final year. San Diego Padres selected Brown in the 19th round of the 2016 MLB Draft after he caught the eye of scouts.

I put an everyday [player] grade on him at the big league level,” said Padres area scout Stephen Moritz, who scouted and signed Brown in 2016. “Right, wrong, indifferent, who knows? But I believe that with the athleticism — and he really loved the game, so he was going to work at it — there was a chance for him to be an everyday center fielder.”

Before attending Ole Miss, AJ Brown became the second player ever — Kyler Murray was the first — to play in both the Under Armour All-Star baseball and football games. (Jerrion Ealy and Maurice Hampton have since joined Brown and Murray.) His rare blend of size and athleticism made him a marvel on both the baseball and football field.

It was like watching a grown man on a field of high schoolers,Moritz said. “Like, ‘Oh my God, this dude just scored from first, easy.’ … The first time I saw him, I knew this was a different kind of athlete than 99 percent of the players we were going to scout.”

Brown was encouraged to play baseball by his father, who introduced him to the game at a young age. In the end, AJ Brown chose a life of seeking the endzone over shagging fly balls, a decision the Eagles have to be thrilled with.

The Eagles advantage

The Eagles worked quickly to sign Brown, agreeing to a four-year, $100 million extension after acquiring him from the Tennessee Titans in exchange for a 2022 first-round pick and 2022 third-round pick.

Brown, 24, figures to be a franchise cornerstone for the Eagles.

When the Eagles signed him, they knew big plays would follow, but I’m not sure anyone thought the chemistry would develop this quickly between him and Hurts. If Brown continues to perform at this level, his contract will soon be viewed as a bargain for the Philadelphia Eagles.

Photo by Andy Lewis/Icon Sportswire