Before the season started, there was a small percentage of people that believed the Oakland Raiders and Tennessee Titans would be playing a playoff implicating matchup in December and so far, both teams have had improbable journeys to arrive at this point of the season.
The Titans benched alleged franchise quarterback Marcus Mariota in week 6, and have since revitalized their offense with Ryan Tannehill under center. Regardless of who’s starting, both Tennessee quarterbacks have benefited from the performance of rookie wide receiver A.J. Brown.
For the Raiders, analyst and fans saw 2019 as a rebuilding season with low expectations due to the amount of rookies and roster turnover. Instead, Oakland has six wins this year with one of those with a game-sealing interception by rookie cornerback Trayvon Mullen, who will be one of two second round picks that wull line up against each other, the other being Brown, in a key matchup. The question is just how vital have these two rookies been for their teams?
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Brown, who wasn’t invited to attend the NFL out of Ole Miss, was selected 51st overall by the Titans. Since then, the rookie has stepped into and filled the role of the Titans leading pass catcher. On the year, he has 34 receptions for 626 yards and four touchdowns and 287 of those receiving yards are after the catch. More detailed, he ranks 10th in the NFL with 8.4 YAC per reception, which is good for second, only trailing Mecole Hardman (12.2 YAC per reception). Brown also becomes an instant playmaker once he receives the ball while still providing a strong resistance on first contact. This was A.J. Brown’s first reception on the year:
That was against highly heralded second year cornerback Denzel Ward that not only got beat in coverage, but also struggled (to say the least) to bring down Brown.
Another play that displays his explosiveness and incredible change of direction:
AJ Brown has all the sauce ðŸ”¥ @Titans pic.twitter.com/UO3TSF16DU
— The Checkdown (@thecheckdown) September 29, 2019
To put it mildly, Brown is a yard after catch nightmare with his rapid change of pace and strength. There’s not many wide receivers in the NFL that possess both qualities. As a rookie, his abilities make his accomplishments more impressive in an offense focused around Derrick Henry. It is mandatory the Raiders stay on his hip on his routes and match his physicality after the catch. To counter Mullen, Oakland has a rookie defender of their own that matches what Brown can bring to the table.
The Raiders selected cornerback Trayvon Mullen out of Clemson with the 40th overall pick in this year’s draft. He was the second Clemson Tiger selected out of three for the Raiders 2019 NFL draft class. Unlike his counterparts Clelin Ferrell and Hunter Renfrow, Mullen did not receive as much playing time to start the season. In fact, Mullen only received 78 total snaps between weeks 1-6. Defensive End Clelin Ferrell participated in 254 snaps during that time while missing one game due to injury. Receiver Hunter Renfrow received 162 snaps, double the count of Mullen’s total.
Since Week 7 though, Mullen has shown progression and confidence by the week in a Raiders secondary that has given up 27 receiving TD’s, (Third Worst in NFL). However, Mullen is only held responsible for one of them. Tyreek Hill is one of the fastest players on the planet, anyone guarding him in man coverage with no safety help better say a prayer. Better yet, they should just put six points on the board for the Chiefs. This singular third down play of Mullen is a small sample size but a massive indication of the player he currently is and has potential to become.
Rookie CB Trayvon Mullen (@MullenIsland1) continues to impress. 3rd down, lined up man to man against WR Tyreek Hill with no safety help. Keys on Mahomes's drop, uses proper footwork, and breaks quickly on this out route for pass break up. Going to be player.#Raidernation pic.twitter.com/Pudd9XVHBO
— Ryan Holmes, MBA (@Rholm22) December 3, 2019
Also in that same game, he was left in man coverage again against Hill and came up with a great pass defensed. Later, Mullen had a interception in the end-zone that was overturned due to defensive pass interference.
The INT gets overturned for DPI but Trayvon Mullen is another rookie that looks like he will be a very good player.
Honestly donâ€™t feel like the Raiders would get the benefit of that call. #RaiderNation pic.twitter.com/eTJ6vubzpI
— Chris Reed (@ChrisReed_NFL) December 1, 2019
A flag was thrown, but nobody can take away the fact that Mullen is on the right track to being something special for Oakland.
That’s the tale of the tape for two very impressive young players that have the ability to become special in the NFL. You will hear about Derrick Henry, Josh Jacobs, Derek Carr and the playoff implications all week long. I doubt you will hear much talk of the matchup between the receiver and the corner. If the Raiders take away the Titans most explosive receiving playmaker with their most efficient defensive back, the odds of the game could be tipped into Oakland’s favor.
Ultimately, the matchup of the two has the potential to alter the outcome of a game with playoff implications. Mullen has the closer ability to finish games. He has done it before, if he repeated this again on Sunday I’m sure Raider Nation wouldn’t mind.
Back-to-back weeks with a game-sealing INT for this defense.@MullenIsland1 shut the door with this one. #CINvsOAK pic.twitter.com/Q5USVFw9VZ
— Las Vegas Raiders (@Raiders) November 18, 2019
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