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2020 All-22 Analysis: Buffalo Bills wide receiver John Brown

A look at Brown’s second year with the Bills

The addition of Stefon Diggs helped soften the blow considerably but, no doubt about it, the 2020 season for John Brown was a disappointment. Not as a result of on-field performance mind you. Injuries robbed Brown of seven games during the regular season. He went in and out of the lineup, making it hard to maintain rapport. As a possible cap casualty in 2021, it’s time to check in on Brown as is our wont. Yes I look for excuses to use that phrase. Old timey for the win!

Play 1

If you’re known as the speed receiver on your team you should probably have some speed. John Brown does. There’s nothing complex about the route. He just gets a step early, which is followed by another step, and so on.

Play 2

Looking at stats would be a bad move to evaluate John Brown. I mean because of the injuries, but I also mean because there’s more to it than that. This ball is never coming his way, but the respect for Brown as a deep threat keeps the safety way, waaaaay back. Stefon Diggs has a lot of extra room to operate as a result.

Play 3

The speed isn’t just for decoy purposes and clearing space for everyone else. Backed up on their own one, a lot of teams would turn to the power run game. Buffalo doesn’t really have one of those and offensive coordinator Brian Daboll dials up a quick pass. With John Brown one-on-one AND given a cushion like this, Josh Allen has the right target identified. The pass comes out with zero hesitation. Despite the absurd speed of the play as it pans out this gains seven yards.

Play 4

The throw is definitely not out of Josh Allen’s range so chalk this up to the difficulty of getting a perfect throw chasing a sprinting target for about 60 air yards. The bottom line though is that John Brown needs to slow down and still has a step on the guy who was supposed to be covering the deep threat and numerous steps on the guy who was covering him in the first place. It’s not a straight-up foot race as neither defender played this perfectly. The bigger point is that when the Bills identify a gap deep, Brown is a good option to exploit it. If Allen puts this in the end zone rather than a bit short, there might not have been a Dolphin on screen for the broadcast angle.

Play 5

A couple thoughts on this play. John Brown doesn’t run the most complex route tree. I’m not saying he’s a bad route runner. Not by a long shot. I’d put him third on the team behind Diggs and Beasley and still in the “pretty good” tier. This should shock no one but it’s an important part of receiver analysis so there you go. The second thought is that Brown is actually a pretty physical receiver. There are plenty of clips of him mixing it up through the five-yard zone (and beyond) before going about his business. I liked this one though because he jams a shoulder in and tries to get the last couple yards for a first down. Important fact: This was second down.

Play 6

John Brown is a nice situation for an analyst because I don’t really need to prove that he’s good. Just about everyone knows that. It’s cool to revisit some of the reasons why. In 2020 the injury bug loomed large and the fact that I don’t need to go above and beyond to prove Brown has talent affords me the luxury of addressing injury concerns.

This was his second game returning from a knee injury. The week before they seemed to be working him in slowly just in case but he wasn’t held back against the Seattle Seahawks at all. Eleven targets, eight catches, and 99 yards. And this fancy footwork should alleviate concerns about his recovery from the knee injury.

Play 7

Same idea as above but coming back from the ankle injury. Brown was again limited the week prior but seemed to return to form. The first stop isn’t all that impressive and could hint at a lingering injury. But Brown sees Allen is scrambling, suddenly accelerates, stops, turns, and comes back to make a sideline catch. Ankle looks pretty good here.


I don’t think anyone wants John Brown gone. Being perfectly candid the Buffalo Bills could almost certainly find a fast guy. Brown isn’t just a fast guy though. He’s a tough teammate who offers solid blocking support, and can shove through early contact. He runs routes well enough to be more than merely a fast guy. He’s savvy enough to help his quarterback when the play breaks down. If the Bills decide to go in a different direction for WR2, there’s a reasonable chance it’ll be a worse direction.