A.J. Brown's explosive debut shows what he's capable of as an NFL wideout
A.J. Brown made a case for more touches in his NFL debut
While Derrick Henry flashed potential as a future top five running back in the NFL, there was much to be desired from the wide receivers. Tennessee went out and signed Adam Humphries in free agency and also drafted A.J. Brown with their second-round pick. The latter was the one who impressed in the season opener.
Brown caught three of his four targets for 100 yards in a 43-13 blowout victory over the Cleveland Browns -- making him the first Titan/Oiler since Sid Banks in 1964 to record at least 100 yards in his first career game with the team, according to The Tennessean.
On the Titans' third play of the game, Brown got loose in the secondary and caught a bomb from Mariota, but he wasn't done. After cornerback Denzel Ward caught up to him, Brown eluded his weak arm tackle and rumbled forward for another 12 yards.
That combination of strength and speed is exactly what made him an attractive prospect coming out of Ole Miss. Brown recorded 2,572 yards and 17 touchdowns in his last two seasons as a Rebel, even though most of the spotlight was given to his running mate D.K. Metcalf. Still, the Titans showed just how much they thought of Brown when they selected him ahead of Metcalf in April.
After a short three-yard catch just a couple of plays later, Brown got his next touch in the third-quarter, a 10-yard route which he again turned into more.
Brown stiff-armed Terrance Mitchell to the ground, caught a block and juked out two defenders on the way to a monster 51-yard play. These were the kind of plays he would usually take to the house during his time in Oxford.
"Whenever I get the ball in my hands, I am trying to be physical and score touchdowns. ... I was joking on the sideline and was like, 'In college, I would have scored.' I realize at this level, these guys are fast," Brown said after the game, via ESPN's Turron Davenport.
Currently, Corey Davis and Tajae Sharpe are ahead of Brown on the depth chart. Both did not record a catch on Sunday. We may see a changing of the guard when it comes to who is the Titans' go-to wideout very soon.
It's easy to fire off overreactions after the season opener, but with Brown, it's different. It's worth putting some stock into this guy.
Brown will need to continue to make the most of his opportunities if he wants to make a case for more touches, and that's something that he showed everyone he's capable of in his first professional game. Brown turned two of his three touches into huge plays, and it was what he did with the ball after he got possession which was most impressive.
Mariota already has confidence in his newest weapon, and now all he has to do is continue to live up to expectations.
"He's done a great job throughout camp," Mariota said. "Everyone talks about that transition into the NFL, but he's done a great job buying in, listening and doing everything he can to make himself prepared. Across the board, we had an expectation for him to do well. That's the standard. Now he has to continue to live up to that, and I think he can."
The Titans haven't had a true No. 1 go-to wideout since maybe Derrick Mason in the early 2000's. While it has only been one game, Brown has at least become a prospect in the Titans' search for a No. 1 wideout.
"I think A.J. is really starting to understand what we're doing," head coach Mike Vrabel said. "The quarterbacks have begun to trust him."
The Titans host the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday, and you have to figure Brown will be a bigger part of the game plan this week.
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