HomeFootball DirtA.J. Brown, Eagles Wide Receiver, Not Cleared to Play in Wildcard Round

A.J. Brown, Eagles Wide Receiver, Not Cleared to Play in Wildcard Round

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Eagles head coach Nick Sirianni has announced that his club will be without star wideout A.J. Brown for its wildcard round matchup with the Bucs on Monday (via ESPN’s Tim McManus). Brown suffered a knee injury in last week’s regular season finale against the Giants, and while Sirianni said the three-time Pro Bowler “fought like crazy” in his efforts to heal up in time for the Tampa Bay contest, he was ultimately unable to do so.

Luckily, the injury is not a long-term one, and ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler reports that Brown will be expected to play in the divisional round if Philadelphia should advance. Of course, his absence will make it more difficult for the Eagles to defeat the Bucs, and it exacerbates what has already been an exceedingly trying stretch for the reigning NFC champions.

Since storming out to a 10-1 start to the 2023 campaign, the Eagles lost five of their final six contests to drop them not only out of contention for the No. 1 seed in the conference, but from their place atop the NFC East. During that time, Sirianni made the curious decision to hand defensive play-calling duties to Matt Patricia, which did not move the needle, and Sirianni’s own job security has recently been called into question. If the Eagles’ swoon should culminate in a loss to the Bucs tomorrow, it is at least feasible that owner Jeffrey Lurie will seek an overhaul of the entire coaching staff.

Quarterback Jalen Hurts, who regressed this year after a 2022 season in which he finished second in MVP voting, is dealing with an injured middle finger on his throwing hand, so he could be somewhat limited as he throws to a diminished WR corps. Though the Eagles still boast high-end skill position talent in the form of players like DeVonta Smith, Dallas Goedert, and D’Andre Swift, there is no replacing Brown in the club’s offensive scheme.

In 2023, Brown recorded a career-high 106 receptions for 1,456 yards and seven TDs. And while Hurts’ performance generally declined this season, he and Brown continued to be in sync, as Brown’s 67.1% catch percentage was the highest mark of his career (though Brown’s 13.7 yards-per-catch rate was the lowest of his five-year NFL run, which helps to explain the elevated catch percentage).

Last week’s game against New York was not meaningless, as the Eagles still could have won their division and secured a home playoff game if they had defeated the Giants and if the Cowboys had lost to, or tied with, the Commanders. However, the odds of the moribund Washington outfit putting up much of a fight against Dallas were quite long, so Sirianni’s decision to play his starters has been heavily scrutinized (especially in the wake of Brown’s injury). The third-year HC stood by his call, however.

“We went through it, like you guys asked me before, ‘why did we do it,’” Sirianni said (via Zach Berman of PHLY). “Not knowing what the game was, you know, wanting to put a good output on there. I know that those things didn’t – neither of those things happened. But no. Obviously, you can look back on anything. At that time, I did what I thought was best for the team, and I’ll stick by that. And so, I don’t regret — am I upset that A.J. is not playing because he got dinged in that game? Of course, I am. But no, I don’t second guess that decision.”

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