Titans Rookie WR A.J. Brown Gets Texans' Respect

By SportsRadio 610
HOUSTON (SportsRadio 610) -- When the season started, Tennessee's offensive identity was mostly in its star running back Derrick Henry.

With just one game left in the regular season, there's another threat to recognize. 

Rookie wide receiver A.J. Brown leads the Titans with 48 catches for 927 yards and seven touchdowns. 

As Texans safety Tashaun Gipson Sr. acknowledged Thursday, the Titans offense is starting to go through him.

"It’s 22 (Derrick Henry) and 11 (Brown)," Gipson said. You’ve got to account for those guys every play."

Brown leads all rookie wide receivers with receptions of 40 yards or more (six). Among rookie receivers with more than 13 catches, Brown is also tied for the lead in first-down percentage (75). 

Gipson said Brown, at 6 feet 1 inches and 230 pounds, reminds him of Anquan Boldin. 

"Physical guy, almost like a running back with the ball in his hands," Gipson said. "He can take the top off a defense. It’s a component to his game people don’t give him enough credit for. Good football player. Honestly, I think he’s playing like the best rookie receiver in the league. If not, top two or three."

Texans defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel noted Brown's size and speed. His big plays tend to come on play-action passes, in which linebackers get taken out of the play for an opening down the field. 

That's when Brown kicks into the extra gear. The Texans have to get back in coverage, then rally to the ball to prevent Brown from running for touchdowns and making those big plays, Crennel said. 

The Titans haven't had a rookie wide receiver in a long time.

Brown needs 73 receiving yards to become the franchise's first rookie 1,000-yard receiver since Ernest Givins did it for the Houston Oilers (1,062 yards in 1986).

"Tough matchup, very strong," Texans head coach Bill O'Brien said of Brown. "They ran a reverse with him against the Saints, he took it 50 yards for a touchdown. I mean the guy is hard to tackle, he's a really good route runner. To me, when I look at rookie receivers, he's got to be the best rookie receiver this year. I think he is, right? I don't know too many other rookie receivers that are playing – I think it's hard to do what he's done in your rookie year as a receiver.

"I've got a lot of respect for the guy and the way that they use him, and he is a very difficult matchup. A very strong player, he's got good hands, hard to tackle, can run all the routes. It's going to be a difficult matchup."

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