AJ Brown is not the one who secured Brian Daboll a national championship ring.
If the Giants need reminders that the Eagles have more than one game-changing receiver, their head coach can show the movie of his most memorable play call as offensive coordinator. During his year at Alabama, Daboll called “four verticals” on a second-and-26 and streak DeVonta Smith caught a 41-yard touchdown pass in an overtime win over Georgia in the college football playoffs .
Thus, the Giants are aware of the pick-your-poison conundrum presented by a large body of receivers led by Brown and Smith.
“Anytime you play against good receivers, it’s always a challenge,” Daboll said. “With two of them you can usually affect any part of the field you want to affect – deep, short, outside the numbers either side. These guys are productive players who focus on defenses.
And the Giants will counter with two cornerbacks who were out of NFL jobs on August 30. It was the day Nick McCloud was cut by the Bills – before he was claimed on waivers – and it was in the middle of Fabian Moreau’s free. agency after being released by the Texans.
“[Brown] is playing at a ridiculous level,” said McCloud, who played all 85 defensive snaps last week. “Confidence is everything in this league, so trying to match his energy and his confidence will be the most important thing. It’s there with a mindset that I have to compete and win.
Incompatibility on paper is the price to pay for top cornerback Adoree ‘Jackson – who was Brown’s teammate for two seasons with the Titans – suffering from a knee injury that returned punts the month last. Jackson’s absence was felt last week against the Commanders — when Moreau was grilled by Terry McLaurin (eight catches for 105 yards) — and could be even bigger without his intimate knowledge of Brown.
Brown (61 catches for 950 yards and nine touchdowns) is on course to break his career highs in his first season with quarterback Jalen Hurts.
“They’re a talented bunch, and really they were last year too,” Jackson said of the Eagles receivers. “Add AJ Brown, a dynamic receiver. I feel like he’s always been like that. Just more game shows and he’s able to show everyone that’s what he does on a regular basis. [Since] he arrived as a rookie, he went crazy like that.
The Giants could opt for Moreau, who declined to comment on the matchups, to travel with Brown in a matchup of the best. Or they could try to get Moreau to cancel Smith and throw double teams on Brown. Or they could stick corners on the respective sides of the pitch no matter the game.
How will the Giants handle Brown? Giants defensive coordinator Wink Martindale thinks back to the Terrell Owens era of the Eagles nearly 20 years ago.
“Phew, do you have any ideas? defensive coordinator Wink Martindale asked rhetorically. “It’s like they have to play again. It is a problem. We went against him when he was in Tennessee and he’s a big physical receiver that you had to fight every play. I said [defensive backs coach] Jerome Henderson, if he was a defensive player, he’d be an outside linebacker – that’s how physically he plays at wide receiver.
A big difference? In the Owens years, the Eagles’ No. 2 target was a toss between running back Brian Westbrook and tight end LJ Smith. The best outside options were Todd Pinkston and Greg Lewis. Neither posed the same threat as Smith, the Giants’ coveted 2021 first-round pick. That makes McCloud’s development crucial.
“He’s just a football player, not just the No. 2 corner,” Martindale said. “We play it everywhere. You can count on him, he works there, he studies, he asks all the right questions. I’m really excited for this kid’s career.
No time like the present. Brown had long coveted the opportunity to be part of an elite tandem. That’s why he signed Julio Jones for the Titans, even though it didn’t work out. If Brown or Smith move into the slot, the Giants will have starter Darnay Holmes back after missing a game with a shoulder injury.
“These are the types of games that you are passionate about as a DB,” Holmes said. “The accolades they have are blessings to them, and those are things I aim to accomplish. The way we operate, we never worry too much about a person’s status in the outside world. These are opinions. When we’re between the lines, we’ll see how we do.
New York Post