If A.J. Brown is a diva, then so is this skinny wide receiver − and why Eagles love it
PHILADELPHIA − If A.J. Brown is a diva, then so is DeVonta Smith, and pretty much every great wide receiver in the NFL.
So there was Brown, caught on camera visibly frustrated on the sideline during the Eagles' 38-7 win over the Giants. Brown caught just three passes, on six targets, for just 22 yards, and was in and out of the game with a minor injury that Brown said "is nothing to worry about."
Eagles coach Nick Sirianni admitted that he and Brown talked on the sideline about Brown's perceived lack of targets. Brown acknowledged the conversation as the Eagles get ready to face the 49ers in the NFC championship game on Sunday.
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"I’m not worried about that, and I don’t anybody else should be either because it’s not a big deal," Brown said.
So is he selfish? Petulant? Jealous of Smith?
After all, Brown had 1,496 yards receiving this season, breaking an Eagles' franchise record that stood for 39 years. His partner, Smith, set a franchise record for receptions by a wide receiver with 95, and he had 1,196 yards receiving. Smith and Brown are the first Eagles duo to each break 1,000 yards receiving in the same season.
That doesn't mean that they're satisfied.
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“If you throw the ball to me 100 times, I’m going to want it 101 times,” Brown said. "No, I’m never that receiver to go on the sidelines or try to cause problems on the sidelines. I’m not that guy. I think that’s what you’re describing as a diva, or whatever the case may be. But I’m not that person."
Smith wants the ball just as much, but he's "not that person" either.
"I don’t think there’s a guy on the offense that’s a skill guy that doesn’t want the ball," Smith said. "That’s just being a competitor. That’s just you wanting to do whatever you can to help the team. And I mean, everybody feels like if the ball’s in their hands, they’re helping the team."
Smith had his so-called "diva" moment during the 2021 season in a 13-7 loss to the Giants. In that game, quarterback Jalen Hurts threw to Jalen Reagor into the end zone on fourth down in the final minute. Reagor dropped the ball.
As the Eagles dejectedly walked off the field, Smith was waving his arms furiously, yelling and screaming.
Yes, Smith wanted the ball, just as Brown did last Saturday.
Of course, it was hard for Brown to get the ball when the Eagles ran for 268 yards and Hurts attempted only 24 passes.
But it's not like Brown pouted and went through the motions during the game. In fact, Brown had a key block that sprung Smith for a 9-yard touchdown early in the game.
"He blocked his butt off, and you could see how excited he was when he sprang that block for DeVonta’s touchdown," Sirianni said.
Smith has done the same for Brown. In the season opener against Detroit, Smith didn't have a single reception for the only time in his two NFL seasons. The Eagles won 38-35. Brown, meanwhile, had 155 yards receiving, which at the time was his career high.
After that game, Brown said this: "We know we have weapons on offense, and it was my day. Next week it could be DeVonta’s day or Dallas (Goedert's) day."
Smith had his day two weeks later with a career-high 169 yards in Week 3 against the Washington Commanders. In fact, Smith and Brown have had their days together quite often this season.
Brown and Smith each had 100 yards in a game three times this season. The last time the Eagles had two wide receivers with at least 100 yards in the same game was in 2013 when DeSean Jackson and Riley Cooper did it.
"We never take away from one another," Smith said. "We’re always happy for each other. You see one guy make a play, you’re happy for him. But like I said, it’s a competitive thing. It’s wanting to be a playmaker; it’s wanting to be able to help the team more so than just being a diva."
Brown and Smith do it with their different styles. Smith is a precision route-runner, while Brown can take a slant over the middle and use his running back-type of frame and turn it into a 30-yard gain.
Then you add Goedert, the tight end, on intermediate routes over the middle, Quez Watkins on the deep routes, and the running of Hurts (760 yards) and Miles Sanders (1,269), and you can see why there are plenty of opportunities for everyone.
That also means on occasion, someone isn't going to get as many touches as he'd like. Against the Giants, that was Brown.
Does that make him selfish?
"Me personally, I just feel like I can change the game at any moment," Brown said. "Getting the ball often keeps you going, keeps you in the rhythm … and, of course, I want the ball."
He gets it often because Smith's skillset helps Brown get open, just as Brown's skillset helps Smith get open.
And it's the same with Goedert.
"Everybody has a different mentality," Smith said about how they get open. "Whether it’s just physically dominating somebody or just finessing their way through it."
Smith was then asked which method he uses.
"I can do either-or," he said. "But I’m more finesse."
What about Brown?
"More of a physical guy, but he can definitely do both, too," Smith said.
Does that make them divas? Or does it make them wide receivers who want to win? Look at it this way, the Eagles wouldn't be in the NFC championship game, one win from reaching the Super Bowl, without them.
Clean bill of health
The Eagles will have everyone eligible to play Sunday. That includes CB Avonte Maddox, who's making his return after missing three games with a toe injury that he suffered against the Cowboys on Dec. 24. It also includes RT Lane Johnson, who's playing with a torn adductor muscle in his groin area.
Maddox returned to practice this week, and both he and Johnson were full participants in practice Friday. LB T.J. Edwards was added to the injury report Friday with an ankle injury. He was limited in practice, but cleared to play Sunday.
Maddox doesn't expect to have any limitations. At least he's not going to play that way.
"When I get on the field, I’m always going to be me," he said. "There’s no holding back. I’m going to go hard."
Contact Martin Frank at email@example.com. Follow on Twitter @Mfranknfl.
This article originally appeared on Delaware News Journal: If A.J. Brown is a diva, so is DeVonta Smith, and how that helps Eagles