All eyes are on Ryan Tannehill and Derrick Henry, but the Tennessee Titans player that will have a breakout year is one that not too many will be watching.
The Tennessee Titans are going to be on a few people’s watchlists this upcoming season as they try to get back to the AFC Championship. People will also be watching Ryan Tannehill and Derrick Henry to see which player will have a breakout season in 2020.
Henry is coming off of the best season of his career and winning the NFL rushing title after rushing for 1,540 yards, and Tannehill had one of the best half-seasons a quarterback could have once he took over as starting quarterback in Week 7.
Tannehill led the Titans to the Playoffs, and Henry picked up the slack in the playoffs and helped push the Titans to the AFC Championship. I can’t forget the defense on that wild run, either. The defense played amazingly to allow both Tannehill and Henry to do great things on the offensive side of the football.
I think that both Henry and Tannehill will have a really good season in 2020, but neither of them will be the one to have a breakout season. That honor will go to A.J. Brown, who was statistically one of the best receivers in the league for the minimal amount of catches that he had in 2019.
Brown led the clubhouse of rookie receivers in 2019 with 1,051 receiving yards and nine total touchdowns and only caught 52 passes to do so. You can’t get much better than that on only 52 receptions for a second-round pick.
NFL.com’s Nick Shook is the most recent person to use advanced metrics and to rank Brown as a top-ten pass catcher in the NFL. Michael Thomas topped the list with Tyler Lockett, Stefon Diggs, Marvin Jones, Calvin Ridley, Amari Cooper, Hunter Henry, George Kittle, Emmanuel Sanders, and AJ Brown rounding out the list.
"Catch rate: 61.9%. Expected catch rate: 54.7%. Difference: 7.2 percentage points.A breakout rookie who too often was overlooked nationally, Brown ripped up defenses with his combination of size and speed. Remember Ryan Tannehill’s league-leading passer rating? He can thank Brown for much of that, as Tannehill and Marcus Mariota compiled a combined passer rating of 127.6 when targeting Brown, the best mark of any of these pass-catchers. Teams afforded him 5.3 yards of cushion off the line on average, but they also learned that pressing Brown can get them beat, too. The receiver faced the third-highest press rate (38.3 percent) of these 10 pass-catchers, yet still managed to catch 52 passes for more than 1,000 yards. In fact, defenses blanketed Brown, who faced a greater tight-window percentage than any of these 10 players at 33.3 percent of all targets. He was only open on 25 percent of targets and rarely wide open (9.5 percent), helping explain his positive catch-rate difference. Brown won with size, strength, drive, and desire in 2019. He’s going to be a nightmare for opposing defenses in the years to come."
Pro Football Focus also ranked Brown as the No. 3 receiver in the league from Week 7 on, which was when Tannehill took over as the starting quarterback. Of Brown’s 1,051 yards, 778 of those yards came from Week 7 to the end of the season, and four of his five 100-yard games in that span.
A full year with Tannehill at quarterback can only elevate Brown’s play at a high level. If Brown can have 778 receiving yards in the last half of the season, then I think he could push for 1,500 to 2,000 receiving yards in 2020.
He’s a big guy that isn’t afraid to get physical with some of the best defenders in the game, which is what makes him unique compared to most of the other year-two receivers in the NFL.
I think Brown is going to have a big year in 2020. Of course, he’s going to need Tannehill to be as good as he was in 2019 for an entire season to have the opportunity to have a great season, but I think that Brown is going to be the Titans player that has a breakout season that no one is really expecting.