A.J. Brown’s Eagles debut couldn’t have gone much better and the rest of the NFL surely took notice.
Now the Eagles have to be ready for them to react.
“I think anytime a guy like A.J., he has 10 catches for 155 (yards), teams have to be aware of that,” offensive coordinator Shane Steichen said. “We have to be ready to adjust.
“That's the beauty of having three studs (Brown, DeVonta Smith, Dallas Goedert), along with Quez (Watkins) is a stud, that if they start rolling to certain guys or whoever it is and how they start to play guys, we have to go through our reads and go from there.”
We already knew that Brown was an elite talent but now that this first game is on tape, you can bet on teams doing everything in their power to stop him.
There will be some weeks when a defensive coordinator walks into the building, writes the number “11” on the whiteboard and tells his team, “We’re not letting that guy beat us.”
It’s a good strategy. It’s one the Eagles have to be ready for. It’s also one they have to be ready to beat.
It was pretty glaring that DeVonta Smith did not have a single catch in Sunday’s opener. He had at least 2 caches in 16 of 17 games last season as a rookie. But he was targeted four times against the Lions and had one catch negated because of a penalty. He’ll get his eventually.
The Eagles are not worried about Smith and you probably shouldn’t be either.
“DeVonta Smith is not a good playmaker. He’s a great playmaker,” head coach Nick Sirianni said. “I think everybody in this city saw that on hand last year.”
Steichen said that during games he’s cognizant of the distribution of the football to the Eagles’ playmakers. But he also said he doesn’t want quarterback Jalen Hurts worrying about that.
“Obviously, DeVonta is a premier player in this league, and did I think in a million years he wouldn't have a catch? Absolutely not,” Steichen said. “I did not think it was going to go that way. But that's my job, I've got to get him the ball.”
Sirianni stressed the importance of the offense not being one-dimensional. Smith didn’t have a catch. Watkins didn’t have a catch. Zach Pascal had one for 7 yards. And Brown had 10 catches on 13 targets for 155 yards.
But it’s also hard to argue with results. The Eagles put up 455 yards and 31 points on offense.
If defenses start to double Brown or give more help on him, then the Eagles can go elsewhere. If they don’t want to do that, then keep feeding Brown if it’s working.
As long as the offense is humming and the Eagles are winning, receivers won’t make too many waves when they don’t get the ball. If the Eagles start losing? Then we might hear about it more.
“You know what the best part is?” Steichen said. “This group in general, they're all selfless, and this is an ultimate team game, and it's all about winning. Those guys understand that. As competitors, do they want the ball? Absolutely, they want the ball. But as long as we're winning and we're scoring points, I think everyone is going to be pretty happy.”
And when teams work to take away Brown, which they should and will do, the Eagles just need to be ready to counter.
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