A.J. Brown’s first half for Eagles should terrify the rest of the NFL

Through the first seven weeks of the 2022 NFL season, the Philadelphia Eagles had been the NFL’s only undefeated team by dint of an outstanding run game, a defense that’s really finding its way, and the occasional big passing play from quarterback Jalen Hurts.

And when we say “occasional,” we really mean it. Hurts came into Sunday’s game against the Pittsburgh Steelers as one of the most big play-shy quarterbacks in the NFL. Per Pro Football Focus, Hurts had attempted just 13 passes of 20 or more air yards, completing six of those passes for 256 yards and a touchdown. Those 13 deep attempts ranked 30th in the NFL, right down with guys like Joe Flacco and Matt Ryan. Hurts’ six deep completions ranked 24th, between Baker Mayfield and Kirk Cousins.

So, the Eagles knew their paradigm: Create body blow after body blow for a strong start to the season. That said, at some point, Hurts was going to have to cut loose. Not only to keep his team on a Super Bowl track, but to help Hurts establish himself as the team’s total franchise quarterback. No such quarterback needs to be hidden by the system around him. In addition, there was the need to validate on the field the first-round pick given to the Tennessee Titans for receiver A.J. Brown this offseason. Brown certainly has the skill set to take deep passes to the house.

In the first half alone, Brown caught five passes on nine targets for 113 yards and three touchdowns. And Hurts was riddling Pittsburgh’s defense deep at a franchise-historical rate.

And then, with 12:53 left in the third quarter, Hurts hit receiver Zach Pascal on this 34-yarder — another deep pass, as Pascal caught it just about 20 yards downfield.

Hurts is doing all this against a Steelers defense that has been league-average against quarterbacks looking for explosives. Coming into this game, per Sports Info Solutions, Pittsburgh had allowed 10 completions on 25 attempts of 20 or more air yards for 315 yards, 272 air yards, three touchdowns two interceptions, and an opponent quarterback rating of 91.2.

The important note here is that if head coach Nick Sirianni and offensive coordinator Shane Steichen are now comfortable calling plays in which Hurts can nuke enemy defenses with these bombs? The rest of the NFL has one more big thing to worry about.

Story originally appeared on Touchdown Wire