PHILADELPHIA — AJ Brown says that’s a matter of fact, as if his aiming accuracy isn’t actually quite as extraordinary as it is.
“This off-season, I’ve been hitting 23 miles an hour a few times, and that’s what I needed,” the Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver said last week in an interview with Yahoo Sports. “My goal is to get in the best shape possible and run my tracks at about 18, 19 miles per hour each time.”
It’s an amazing goal, and not only because of the tiny percentage of humans who can accelerate to over 18 miles per hour if they try. It’s also amazing because, while NFL players continually strive to hone their craft, few concretely measure their own definition of success.
But the Philadelphia Eagles Pro Bowl wide receiver spent his time doing just that: chasing measurable, actionable goals. Certainly, his 1,496 yards marked the career-best and team-high production among skill players in a Super Bowl-berth season. Brown’s 11 defeats tied his career high and tied running back Miles Sanders for the most goals scored by an Eagles player other than a quarterback.
But the Browns sought further improvement, his sophomore year in the Philadelphia system and a cleaner health bill during the NFL season that allowed him to synchronize his body and mind better than in recent years. Brown teamed up with his college strength coach and longtime coach, Joey Guaracio, to determine how best to achieve this.
Nusour’s coaches and teammates say they can see results.
“It’s hard to say he’s getting better quickly, but he is,” said head coach Nick Siriani. “It gets in and out of breaks faster, which helps you create more breaks, which is what will help you get more yards after holding, which is what will help your quarterback throw the ball to you more.
He said something in the off-season, like, ‘Yeah, if I’m in good shape, I’m going to get more opportunities. “
‘It’s Like Poison’: How Brown Trained for Speed, Not Just Speed
After training the 2022 offseason four days a week, the Browns have increased that schedule to five this year. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, he mixed the conditioning in a way—and a heavy launch day. Brown devoted Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays to training for speed and explosiveness.
Guarachio said he cycled through jumps and bounds, plyometric training, and resistance racing with sleds and chains. Sled pushes are intended to sharpen acceleration angles. The high-speed action confirmed whether Brown’s legs were in a better position to hit under his hips every time.
“I give him small doses of high-speed running, because he’s like a poison — he’s so powerful,” Guaracio told Yahoo Sports. “Just giving him these exposures in limited doses so we can give him the ability that, well, if he catches a deep ball, he can separate.”
In each session, Guarascio would measure the data using Catapult GPS tracking. The goal wasn’t just to run as fast as possible.
Sirianni measures speed by how a player moves in and out of the breaks, changes directions after running a straight line, or pokes at the line of scrimmage in a different direction. Guaracio, who is currently the strength and conditioning coach at Florida Atlantic University, similarly distinguishes between the fastest player who can theoretically run and the fastest player who can translate that ability into his craft.
Guaracio said Brown’s overall top speed was 1.6 mph faster than a year earlier, up from 22.1 mph to 23.7 mph. Brown also ran the fly-10 — a 10-yard dash after building speed, in this case for 20 yards — in 0.91 seconds, which translates to 22.48 miles per hour over a distance he could realistically encounter in game scenarios. The Browns’ average goal depth last season was 12.1 yards.
But Guarascio broadens his players’ perspective on speed based on their responsibilities. For a receiver like Brown, speed isn’t just about how fast he can go.
“You want to run as fast as you can stop,” Guarachio said. “He’s able to run 23 miles an hour. But if he runs 23 miles an hour and tries to go down the pit road, he’s going to have to sacrifice his cuttings and vegetation. So the faster you run while still being able to hit the brakes, you really separate people. Because you don’t You can only threaten people quickly, especially in your releases, but then you can also separate the change of direction from your slowing down.”
With this frame, Guaracio and Brown determined the maximum speed at which Brown could smoothly execute his run. For deeper routes, Guaracio said, settle for 17 to 19 mph.
“If I have five plays, I don’t just try to get through the five plays,” Brown said. “I’m trying to be effective on the whole five plays. So I was just trying to tell the difference. Because I can easily get five plays. But being effective play after play, what if I throw the ball five times?”
“That’s the mentality I’ve been trying to achieve.”
Brown’s translation speed at Eagles camp
At Eagles training camp, Brown’s speed and quickness were already beginning to show in his plays. He’s referring to one play in which linebacker James Bradbury passed when Bradbury was “full and full and full running,” Brown says, “and I ran right next to him.” (If that sounds like a brag, he actually only shared it after repeated questions and noted that he and Bradbury didn’t rubbish-talk him because “he knows. You don’t have to say it”).
In their last first-team snap during last week’s practice stretch, the Browns similarly edged rookie quarterback Kelly Ringo on a 50-yard pass down the left sideline. Offensive coordinator Brian Johnson praised the Browns’ hands as well as his conditioning.
Brown can adapt throws more flexibly as he applies his understanding of his peak range to every play. The more he polishes his pace, the more he deliberately separates him from defenders and creates throws with a higher probability than quarterback Jalen Hurts.
The Browns only caught 60.7% of their allotted throws last year, the second-worst of the 10 Eagles to catch at least one reception. The Browns’ 145 field goals and average goal depth of 12.1 yards along the team are in the context of this success rate, but nonetheless point to an opportunity for improvement as the Eagles continue to trust the Browns on more dangerous plays.
They know his physique is impressive, with third-string quarterback Ian Book telling Yahoo Sports that the team is showing Brown a smaller receiver bar away from the press and saying, “You just have to talk to AJ about what he does, because he’s so good at it.”
“He’s getting off the field, he’s winning on single balls,” Bock said. “They’re definitely not 50-50. They go for it big time.”
Johnson also does not underestimate the psychological factors that affect Brown’s faster performance. Johnson believes that being on the road, chemistry with the quarterback and general offensive flow are “two parts art and science”. Brown’s offseason fast action is a case in point. Brown said Brown’s deeper understanding of the playbook and Hurtz’s inclinations—the two communicating on the line of scrimmage with a series of nonverbal cues and gestures—reflected the artistry.
This combination could be fatal.
“When you have players like that, you want to be able to get them involved in a lot of different ways,” Hurtz said. “He’s been working really hard.
“It looks great to me.”