Can Tyreek Hill and/or A.J. Brown surpass Calvin Johnson?

Maybe the best way to break a record isn't to speak on it, but casually mention on your podcast that you're going to obliterate it without directly bringing up said mark.

That's what Miami Dolphins receiver Tyreek Hill did in July, when he let fly during an episode of his "It Needed To Be Said" podcast: "I will break 2,000 yards next year, bro. Two-thousand yards was on my bucket list to get before I leave this league ... 2,000 yards and another Super Bowl. We getting that. Believe that."

Through eight games in the 2023 season, Hill is showcasing what he said. The eight-year veteran has 1,014 receiving yards, a healthy 74 yards ahead of Calvin Johnson's pace in 2012, the year in which he set the record of 1,964 yards with the Detroit Lions.

Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver A.J. Brown, who has an NFL record of six consecutive games with at least 125 receiving yards, sits at 939 yards after eight games.

Let's not forget that Hill and Brown have the advantage of an extra regular-season game. However, the NFL will not be adding an asterisk if one of the players breaks Johnson's record.

Interestingly, Johnson and Hill had five 100-yard-plus games among their first eight, with one 200-yard game. Each also had two clunkers in which they failed to reach 60 receiving yards. Brown has only one such contest.

Johnson averaged 117.5 yards per game over his first eight games in 2012; Hill averaged 126.75. If Hill maintains that pace, he'll top 2,150 yards and shatter the record.

We tracked wide receivers close to Johnson's pace after four games and now eight contests. We will look again after 12 games.

The ones to watch

Tyreek Hill, Miami Dolphins

Receiving yards: 1,014 | Needed to break record: 951

NFL Nation Dolphins reporter Marcel Louis-Jacques on how Hill got here: Hill put up a career-high 1,710 yards last season -- without even fully understanding the offense. He said during the offseason that he gained a better grasp of how to leverage his speed with the Dolphins' scheme and predicted a 2,000-yard season before it began.

He started with a 215-yard, two-touchdown performance against the Los Angeles Chargers and has not slowed down, with Hill becoming the first player in the Super Bowl era to record 1,000 receiving yards in his team's first eight games. While Hill remains the downfield threat he has been throughout his career, he is averaging a career-high 6.3 yards after the catch this season, sixth most in the NFL. He has created between 3 and 5 yards of separation on a career-best 31% of his targets, proving yet again that he might be the most difficult player to cover in the league.

Coach Mike McDaniel also is committed to getting Hill the ball. Hill ranks third in the league in targets (87), barely behind leader Stefon Diggs (90) of the Buffalo Bills and Los Angeles Rams rookie Puka Nacua (89).

Potential breakout game: at Washington Commanders, Dec. 3. The Commanders allow the fourth-most passing yards per game this season and just traded their two starting edge rushers. This team appears to be throwing in the towel, and it could get ugly by the time the Dolphins visit FedEx Field.

Potential bust game: at New York Jets, Nov. 24. There's a reason the Jets are 4-3 despite owning one of the worst offenses. Their defense has been elite against the pass, allowing the fifth-fewest yards through the air this season. Cornerback Sauce Gardner could prove to be a tricky matchup. Hill struggled in both games against the Jets last season (nine receptions for 70 yards), but quarterback Tua Tagovailoa also missed both of those contests.

A.J. Brown, Philadelphia Eagles

Receiving yards: 939 | Needed to break record: 1,026

NFL Nation Eagles reporter Tim McManus on how Brown got here: Brown has been on a serious heater since late September. He has posted 125-plus receiving yards in six consecutive games -- the first NFL player to do so. Brown dealt with frustrations early in the season. His animated conversation with quarterback Jalen Hurts in a Week 2 win over the Minnesota Vikings, in which Brown finished with four catches for 29 yards, was caught on camera and became a hot topic in the following days. Hurts and Brown downplayed it as a talk between good friends holding each other accountable and getting better. It didn't take long for the duo to sync up. The following week, Brown went off for nine catches and 131 yards against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and hasn't slowed since.

"A.J. has been on a tremendous tear the last couple games," Eagles offensive coordinator Brian Johnson said. "He's obviously a great player. He's making the most of his opportunities when the ball comes his way. I would imagine that defenses start to even put a little bit more focus and attention on him. And once that happens, I think that's kind of the beauty of our offense is we do have guys who can make plays at a bunch of different spots."

The 6-foot-1, 226-pound Brown can turn short catches into big gains with his ability to break tackles and create yards after the catch. Coaches have also noticed improved speed from Brown, making him an even tougher cover down field. He has 12 receiving touchdowns on throws of 15-plus yards since the start of last season, the most in the NFL in that span.

Potential breakout game: vs. Arizona Cardinals, Dec. 31. Coach Jonathan Gannon's defense often plays back, allowing receivers to operate underneath. The Cardinals have yielded 12 touchdown passes this season, tied for sixth most in the league.

Potential bust game: at Dallas Cowboys, Dec. 10. It's hard to picture anyone slowing him at the moment, but the Cowboys are among the most equipped, boasting a defense that ranks fourth in pass yards allowed (178.6) and third in interceptions (9).

Fallen off the pace

Justin Jefferson, Minnesota Vikings

Receiving yards: 571

Jefferson, the NFL's receiving yardage leader after four games, sustained a hamstring injury in Week 5 against the Kansas City Chiefs and has been on injured reserve since. When he returns, he'll have to adjust to a new quarterback; the only one he has ever caught an NFL touchdown pass from, Kirk Cousins, was lost for the season on Sunday with a torn right Achilles.

Puka Nacua, Los Angeles Rams

Receiving yards: 795

It's fairly remarkable that a rookie fifth-round pick sits third in the NFL in receiving yards after eight games (he was second after four games). But after posting three 100-yard games in his first four outings, Nacua has only one since. The return of Cooper Kupp after a hamstring injury sidelined him has much to do with Nacua's reduced numbers.

Nico Collins, Houston Texans

Receiving yards: 577

Collins ranked a surprising fourth in the NFL in receiving yards after four games, but he has only 149 over his past three games.