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A.J. Brown-Jalen Hurts connection: How Eagles’ bold draft-day trade unlocked QB’s passing potential

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It’s not rocket science. It’s chemistry.

The Eagles gifted Jalen Brown another top-flight receiver this offseason when they traded for Titans No. 1 A.J. Brown during the 2022 NFL Draft. To say that the trade has paid dividends would be an understatement.

With a 1-2 punch that features Brown and 2021 first-round pick DeVonta Smith, Hurts has taken quite the leap forward with his arm in 2022, and that’s largely thanks to having a target like Brown out wide. That said, this season wasn’t exactly an introduction. In fact, they have a history that dates to before they made it to the NFL.

Hurts and Brown have known each other since their high school years, when Hurts campaigned for Brown to join him at Alabama. While it didn’t work out that way, the pair found a way to link up on the grandest stage in football.

MORE: Why A.J. Brown’s run with the Eagles feels like Super Bowl deja vu

Here’s how far back the relationship goes:

The A.J. Brown-Jalen Hurts connection

Jalen Hurts and A.J. Brown have a friendship that spans back to their pre-college days. When Hurts committed to Alabama, he attempted to get Brown to join him in Tuscaloosa.

Brown ended up going to Ole Miss and filled out a wide receiver room that featured DK Metcalf and Elijah Moore. (That’s a pretty loaded group.)

But the two’s friendship has extended into the NFL, too: Prior to Brown’s trade to the Eagles, he and Hurts worked out with one another in the offseason. Hurts was also pushing for the Eagles to make a move for Brown, and their off-field chemistry has clearly blossomed into on-field success.

“I think when you run into good people, I think you just try to stay close to them,” Brown said during his introductory press conference. “He was one person that I considered a really good friend who always looked out for me. And here we are.”

Brown has connected with Hurts on 39 receptions this season for 659 yards and five touchdowns through seven games. 

Brown has helped Hurts the most in the middle of the field, both intermediate and short routes, allowing Hurts to toss up deep passes better than he has in recent years.

Hurts’ deep throwing has taken a big, big jump: In 2021, PFF graded Hurts as a 74.0 passer on throws 20 yards and over, with 19 big-time throws and 10 turnover-worthy plays (over 75 deep attempts). In 2022, Hurts has graded out as a 93.5 deep passer per PFF, with eight big-time throws and no turnover-worthy plays. To that end, he’s thrown the ball deep at a lesser rate, at only 18 attempts through seven games.

Simply put: Hurts is a much more effective and efficient passer deep, and that’s because he has Brown (and Smith) to help him through the mid-range game, clearing things up, and taking those deep shots when needed.

So, in all: Take chemistry seriously, folks. It’ll help your quarterback.

A.J. Brown trade, revisited

In simple terms, it was all about money.

Amidst a contract dispute with the Titans, Brown was traded to the Eagles in the middle of the first round of the 2022 NFL Draft for the No. 18 overall pick (the Titans would select Treylon Burks).

In his introductory press conference, Brown said that Hurts put a “bug in the Eagles’ ear” to go and trade for him. That worked out for both sides. 

MORE: Why the Titans traded A.J. Brown

Hurts has his No. 1 target, and Brown has his new team — and his new contract to go with it.

All’s well that ends well.


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