Is A.J. Brown Having the Best Season Ever by an Eagles Wide Receiver?
Is A.J. Brown having the best season ever by an Eagles wide receiver? originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia
Is A.J. Brown having the greatest season ever by an Eagles wide receiver?
In his first 15 games in an Eagles uniform, Brown has 80 catches for 1,304 yards and 10 touchdowns.
With two games left — at least one of which he’ll play — he’s on pace for 90 catches, 1,477 yards and 11 touchdowns with a 16.3 per-catch average. Only one receiver in NFL history has had 90 catches, 1,400 yards, 10 TDs and 16 yards per catch in a season – Calvin Johnson with the Lions in 2011.
Let’s take a look at the 10 greatest wide receiver seasons in Eagles history listed chronologically and see where Brown stacks up. This list covers the Modern Era since 1960 and doesn’t include old-time “ends” such as Don Looney, Pete Retzlaff and Pete Pihos, who were incredible talents but essentially played a different position in a different era of football.
Tommy McDonald, 1961 and 1962: McDonald had almost identical seasons in 1961 and 1962 – 64-for-1,144 yards and a franchise-record 13 TDs in 1961 and 58-for-1,146 yards and 10 TDs in 1962. He ranked 4th in the NFL in yards and 2nd in TDs, 1961 and 3rd in yards and 6th in TDs, 1962. And all that came in 14-game seasons.
Ben Hawkins, 1967: Hawkins led the NFL with 1,265 yards in just 14 games, 1967 and his 90.4 yards per game is highest in Eagles history. His 1,265 yards stood as the Eagles’ record for 16 years until Mike Quick broke it in 1983. Hawkins also averaged 21.4 yards per catch, which stood as the franchise record until DeSean Jackson averaged 22.5 in 2010. To this day, Hawkins is one of only nine WRs in history with 1,250 yards, 10 TDs and 21 yards per catch in a season. Somehow, he didn’t make the Pro Bowl.
Harold Jackson, 1969: Jackson spent 1968 with the Rams as a rookie 12th-round pick and didn’t catch a pass. After being traded to the Eagles in July of 1969 for running back Izzy Lang, Jackson was second in the NFL with 1,116 yards in 14 games in his first season as a starter and caught nine touchdown passes, 7th-most in the league.
Harold Carmichael, 1973: In his first year as a full-time starter, Carmichael led the NFL with 67 catches, 1,116 yards and 79.7 yards per game in a 14-game season and made the first of his four Pro Bowls. He was fourth in the league with nine TD catches.
Mike Quick, 1983: Quick led the NFL with 1,409 yards, 1983 with a monster 20.4 average and a then-Eagles-record-tying 13 touchdowns. His 88.1 yards per game is 2nd-highest in Eagles history and highest in the last 50 years. He was the last Eagle to lead the NFL in receiving yards.
Fred Barnett, 1994: Arkansas Fred caught 78 passes for 1,127 yards and five TDs in 1994, the best season by an Eagles WR since Quick was in his prime a decade earlier.
Irving Fryar, 1997: Fryar was 35 and on a terrible team with horrible quarterback play when he somehow caught 86 passes for 1,316 yards and six TDs in his 14th NFL season. That remains the most yards in NFL history by a player 35 or older and is still 4th-most in Eagles history.
T.O., 2004: Despite missing the last two games of the regular season, T.O. caught 77 passes for 1,200 yards and a franchise-record 14 touchdowns during the 2004 Super Bowl season, his only full season as an Eagle. T.O. ranked 11th in the NFL in yards – he was 3rd when he got hurt – and 3rd in TD catches.
DeSean Jackson, 2013: In his last season with the Eagles before Chip Kelly cut him, D-Jack caught 82 passes for 1,332 yards and nine TDs. He was 9th in the league in receiving yards with the 6th-highest total in franchise history.
Jeremy Maclin, 2014: Maclin was on historic pace before Nick Foles got hurt and was replaced by Mark Sanchez. He still finished with 85 catches for 1,318 yards, 9th-most in the NFL and 3rd-most in Eagles history, as well as 10 touchdowns.
Looking at the top 10 seasons so far, I would rank them like this:
- Mike Quick, 1983
- Ben Hawkins, 1967
- T.O., 2004
- Tommy McDonald, 1971
- Harold Carmichael, 1973
- DeSean Jackson, 2013
- Jeremy Maclin, 2014
- Irving Fryar, 1997
- Harold Jackson, 1969
- Fred Barnett, 1994
Where does Brown stack up?
His 87 yards per game is only 3 ½ per game off Hawkins’ franchise record. He’s 4th in the NFL in receiving yards – behind Justin Jefferson, Tyreek Hill and Stefon Diggs – and tied with Diggs for 3rd in touchdown catches. His 16.3 per-catch average is 2nd-highest among receivers with at least 100 targets, behind only the Dolphins’ Jaylen Waddle. He’s also second to Waddle with 10.3 yards per target.
Brown has the 4th-most 20-yard catches in the league with 20, and his six TDs of 20 yards or more trails only Davante Adams of the Raiders.
His five 100-yard games are 4th-most in Eagles history. He’s the only player in the league with 1,200 yards and 16 yards per catch. His 10.3 yards per target is 3rd-highest this year among WRs and 2nd-highest in Eagles history.
But what really sets Brown apart from Hawkins in 1967, Carmichael in 1973 and Quick in 1983 and most of the receivers on the list above: They put up huge numbers, but they weren’t playing for anything.
Of the 10 receivers in our top-10 list, only two were on playoff teams – T.O. in 2004 and Jackson in 2013.
Brown? He’s starring for the team with the best record in the NFL, he’s one of the biggest reasons the Eagles are 13-2 with the No. 1 scoring offense in the league, and he’s raised his level down the stretch, with 473 yards the last four games – the 3rd-most by any Eagle in any four-game stretch over the last 40 years (behind Owens’ 506 the first four weeks of 2004 and Maclin’s 476 Week 7 through 10 of 2014).
Considering everything? The production, the consistency, the big plays at big moments and team success?
Quick had the most yards, Fryar the most catches, Hawkins the most yards per game, T.O. the most touchdowns.
But the best overall season? Brown has them all topped.
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