NASHVILLE – Hall of Fame receiver Michael Irvin's first interaction with A.J. Brown came at the NFL Combine leading up to the 2019 NFL Draft.
During Super Bowl LIV week earlier this year, Irvin told a story to TennesseeTitans.com about Brown approaching him while he was on the NFL Network set with NFL standout Steve Smith. As Irvin tells it, Brown swung by and told the receivers they were "sleeping on him" when discussing the top receivers in the draft that year.
The Titans ended up picking Brown in the second-round of that draft, and Brown challenged for the NFL's Offensive Rookie of the Year award in 2019.
On Wednesday, during an NFL Network media session leading up to the 2020 season, Irvin offered more high praise for Brown.
And he thinks the best is yet to come for Brown this fall.
"As he was coming on last year, I was like, 'Oh, wow, maybe we were sleeping on him," Irvin said of Brown. "That guy, he is a big guy who can do anything, everything.
"I am expecting him to explode."
Brown wasn't quiet in 2019.
Brown led all rookies with 1,051 receiving yards in 2019, and he also had eight touchdown receptions among his 52 catches, and he added 60 rushing yards with another score.
Brown became the first rookie since Hall of Famer Randy Moss (1998) to have a minimum of 50 catches, 1,000 receiving yards and five touchdowns while averaging 17-plus yards per catch, plus four touchdown catches of 50-plus yards.
Brown was the only NFL rookie since 1970 with 1,000-plus receiving yards and an average of 20-plus yards per reception, and he led the NFL with 605 receiving yards over his final six games of the regular season.
Brown's five 100-yard games led all rookie receivers in 2019 and were the most by any NFL rookie since Amari Cooper (five) in 2015. He became the fourth rookie since 1970 with at least four touchdown receptions of 50-plus yards.
With a year under his belt, Irvin thinks Brown has a chance to develop, and do even more in his second season with quarterback Ryan Tannehill. Irvin, who had 11,904 receiving yards and 65 touchdowns in the NFL, was named to five Pro Bowls during his 12-year playing career with the Cowboys, and he was a three-time Super Bowl champion.
"Now let's be real – (the Titans) used him properly," Irvin said of Brown. "They didn't ask him to do a lot of transitioning in and out of routes. They used him properly – he's a young guy, he has speed to go up the field and everybody coming off those play-actions, he was able to make big plays. I am expecting him to make a big jump. It's not just about his physical ability, just shoulders up, him learning more and more how to play the game, how defenses are trying to go up against him will help him in a big way.
"The greatest growth for most players is between that first and second year. And for him to have an opportunity now to know, 'Hey, (Tannehill) is going to be my quarterback – they just gave him $130 million. I am expecting him to explode."
A look back at wide receiver A.J. Brown's rookie season that included 52 receptions for 1,051 yards and 8 touchdowns in 2019. (Photos: Donald Page)