How A.J. Brown is helping the Eagles deal with heightened expectations

What is this feeling? It’s like we’ve been here before. There’s a specific smell lingering in the air. A familiar acquaintance that has left many memories both bitter and sweet. A strong belief that something will happen or be the case in the future; sounds like expectations to me.

See that’s the funny thing about Philadelphia. They eat, sleep, and breathe football. Of course, the city hates a loser and every team that walks down Broad Street feels the wrath of the Philly faithful at some point or another. But the Birds? They’re held to a different standard: win at all costs.

Inside the (maybe not so) friendly confines of Philadelphia, the Eagles have expectations: Fight until the end, no matter what.

They’re expected to represent everything this city stands for and in the end, you’ll always be a champion. But what happens when those expectations leak beyond this supposed safe haven and make their way into national headlines?

Via Pro Football Focus

Philadelphia isn’t supposed to be the hunted, they were born to be the hunter. Yet when you view lists like this, it’s clear that this Eagles roster is viewed as a force to be reckoned with in the NFL heading into this upcoming season. At least on paper, they are.

Can you remember the last time an Eagles roster was viewed in such high regard? Maybe the year following the Super Bowl 52 victory, but that team was never quite healthy from start to finish. You’d probably have to make your way back to the early 2010s to find a roster with this much hype, anticipation, and expectations.

This more than likely brings you to a team and a term forever viewed in Philadelphia infamy.

The Dream Team.

Talk about pressure.

When Howie Roseman and co. went out and dominated the off-season by acquiring a multitude of talented players and prospects, eyes around the league opened. However, as an Eagles fan, you know the league keeping an eye on you is one thing, but to put the bullseye on your own back is a completely different ball game.

Terms like ‘all stars’ and ‘dream team’ build a sense of animosity, making you the target across the league.

That’s why running back Miles Sanders’ recent comments via CBS Sports garnered a ton of attention from both fans and media members alike.

“Oh man. We all feel like we're on an all-star team, so we feel great. We feel unstoppable, I'm not gonna lie. The vibes are great, always have been. Nick Sirianni is doing a great job just keeping the vibes right, the chemistry good. We compete a lot in practice. But we've go to see. Its going to come down to camp, taking it day by day, putting everything together."

Miles Sanders

Much of the football world is waiting to see what Nick Sirianni has in store for his next act. After leading an Eagles team that was viewed by some as a bottom-tier roster before the season, to a playoff appearance and the team improving on both sides of the ball during the offseason, it’s fair to assume the Eagles could be considered contenders in the NFC, right?

Too bad it’s not easy to win in this league, no matter the amount of talent on a roster (despite the popular belief in Los Angeles — take it how you’d like), no game is decided on paper. Luckily for Philadelphia, WR A.J. Brown knows this.

It’s pretty clear that based on the landscape of the league currently, the Eagles struck while the iron was hot. All it took was a random Christian Kirk deal with the Jacksonville Jaguars worth an average of $18 million annually to ruin that wide receiver market and put Philadelphia in striking distance of the number one wideout the franchise has been desperately looking for.

“You obviously want to spread out your top contracts and your top draft picks and make sure you’re addressing different position groups but that’s also the benefit of having three first-round picks," 

Brad Spielberger of Pro Football Focus told The Philly Blitz. 

But when an opportunity like this arises you almost can’t miss out. With the direction, the league is headed, watching a team like the Cincinnati Bengals and their multitude of receiving options dominate en route to a Super Bowl appearance, teams have to ensure they have legit players at wide receiver. This only solidifies the importance of giving your franchise quarterback the resources to be successful.

While it’s not ideal to continue to go to the spot repeatedly to look for gold, if you look hard enough you might strike.

"The Lions, they actually used back-to-back top ten picks on wide receivers, neither guy really worked out. And the next season they had the number two overall picks, they still took Calvin Johnson." 

Brad Spielberger

What good is a franchise quarterback if he has no security blanket?

There is no understating the importance of the relationship between signal-caller and pass catcher. So for Philadelphia, having the ability to acquire a player with an outstanding relationship with Jalen Hurts not only on the field but off it as well could turn out to be a great business decision.

Chemistry can go a long way, and while it sounds as if this duo has some rust to knock off in terms of an on-the-field connection, off-the-field the bond seems to be stronger than ever.

Not only have the two been seen together on multiple occasions working out and/or vacationing. There’s the latest development of Brown coming to the aid of Hurts, amid the rumors of possible training camp struggles.

Brown has spoken at length about the relationship he and Hurts share and why he thinks that will play a massive role in future success.

“I get to play with my best friend” proclaimed Brown.

The two became close friends back in high school during the recruiting process. Following Hurts’ commitment to Alabama, he tried everything in his power to get the then four-star recruit out of Starkville, Mississippi to join him. While his efforts failed, what Hurts did was create a longstanding bond that ultimately became a deciding factor for the course of both players’ young careers.

Dreams turn into reality as the duo who dreamed of playing together since the beginning, finally have that opportunity.

“I’m so excited,” continued Brown.

“Playing with someone who thinks like me. I talk to him every day; he’s a quarterback, (and) I’m a receiver so we get on the same page quick.”

The acquisition of A.J. Brown already seems to be paying dividends for the Eagles. Now the only question that remains is: how that will translate to on-the-field production?

There has been much speculation as to what the Eagles offense will look like this season. Following an approach that saw the team navigate a historically great rushing attack, Eagles coach Nick Sirianni, who is a former wide receiver himself, has to be salivating at the prospects of his new wide receiver room.

"I still expect an offense that looks to attack defenses on the ground using Hurts to gain a man in the box count, but they should be able to open it up with the route distribution now. They were basically only respected across 2/3rds of the field in the pass game last season. It should open up more now."

@HonestNFL via The Philly Blitz

Despite accumulating 2,995 yards and 24 touchdowns through three seasons, it’s worth noting that Brown has been able to make the most of his opportunities despite playing in a run-first offense. This should allow him to fit in fine in Philadelphia, with much of his game being predicated on yards after the catch. And with that being the direction a Sirianni-led offense would prefer to go, this could essentially become a match made in heaven.

The Eagles already feature one of (if not THE) best offensive lines in the NFL. The pass-catching unit is much improved, and ultimately (as previously stated) a lot of the team’s fate comes down to the play of the quarterback. And while the team may look to stay away from any attention-seeking quotes, the expectations are high and the bar is set.

Will this unit be any different than its star-studded predecessors? Only time will tell, but if all goes according to plan as A.J. Brown put it — “Man, it’s going to be real special.”

(Cover Image Credit: Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)

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