The Tennessee Titans’ second-round pick from the 2019 NFL Draft, Ole Miss receiver A.J. Brown, figures to be a major boost to the Titans offense. Before he can start helping his team, though, Brown will need to develop a rapport with his quarterback, Marcus Mariota.
In order to reach his full potential, Brown will need to gain Mariota’s trust. The two of them will need to master their timing and ensure that they are consistently on the same page.
That trust, according to Titans head coach Mike Vrabel, is a vital component of any football team.
“When you talk about building a team,” Vrabel said, “[trust] is something we have talked about here in the two weeks we have had our veteran players here…trust is going to be critical. With the absence of trust, I think teams tend to deteriorate.
“Players trust each other, I think they can hold each other accountable without players getting their feelings hurt or coaches getting their feelings hurt when players maybe ask questions or want to know why. So, if we can all trust each other better, we can hold each other accountable.”
Vrabel continued to explain that, in a relationship between a quarterback and his receivers, trust has multiple layers.
— Luke Worsham (@luke_worsham) May 8, 2019
“There’s trust in timing, precision in the passing game, which is critical. The coach may say, ‘Hey, we want to run this route at 12 or 15 yards or whatever it may be.’ I always look at him and I say what I always do, ‘You [be] where the quarterback wants you to be.’ No disrespect to me or any of our coaches, the guy that has the football, he has to have you in a spot where he is comfortable throwing the ball.’
“So, the relationship between a quarterback and a receiver is critical and we are hopeful, not only with A.J. but everybody that we have in the receiving room, Corey [Davis] all the way down, continue to build that trust.”
Brown seems ready to do his part in building that kind of relationship with Mariota. One of the first comments he made to reporters after being drafted by the Titans was about developing trust with his quarterback.
“As a rookie,” Brown said, “I have to come in and build that trust with [Mariota]. That will be big. Anything he needs, I’m going to be there.”
Mariota, who has already begun communicating with Brown through text (the two have not yet met in person), said that the key to developing a rapport with his rookie pass catcher will be a combination of freedom and simplicity.
“Keep it simple,” Mariota said. “Allow those guys just to be themselves, allow them to go play. I think our guys—we have a young group—can grow up together, help those guys kind of all learn together. I think he’s got a good group of guys in there with him that he can learn from, so hopefully, he can get on to learning and help us out.”
This is awesome. At today’s #TitansCaravan stop in Spring Hill, Marcus Mariota gave a shoutout over FaceTime to R.J. Ellison, a huge #Titans fan serving overseas in the Navy. pic.twitter.com/i25c4HzqTD
— AtoZSports Nashville (@AtoZSports) May 8, 2019
Someone that Brown may be able to lean on is Corey Davis, the Titans’ leading receiver in 2018. Davis really struggled to get on the same page with Mariota throughout Training Camp and the preseason last year, but things finally clicked once the regular season rolled around.
“It’s the preparation,” Davis said when asked last season what allowed he and Mariota’s on-field chemistry to grow. “Going out there in practice and putting in the extra time when we need it. Just to make sure we’ve got that chemistry down and the timing down.”
The pressure to perfect that chemistry and timing now shifts from Davis’ shoulders to those of Brown. It will be crucial for him and Mariota to develop a strong on-field bond over the next few months, leading up to the 2019 season.
Cover image: Matt Bush & Christopher Hanewinckel/USA Today