The New York Giants made an interesting, perhaps season-shaping, free-agent decision during the offseason. Rather than spend their resources to upgrade the offensive line with an offensive tackle like Andrew Whitworth, Russell Okung or Ricky Wagner, the Giants upgrades their receiving corps by signing Brandon Marshall to a two-year, $11 million deal ($5 million guaranteed) to replace Victor Cruz.
How will that work out? There are many layers to the answer. Let’s try to unravel them as we focus on Marshall while continuing our player-by-player profiles of the Giants’ 90-man roster.
2016 Season In Review
Not counting his 2006 rookie season, when Marshall started just one game and caught just 20 passes for the Denver Broncos, last season was the worst of Marshall’s 11-year NFL career. He caught only 59 passes, his lowest total since that rookie year. His 788 receiving yards marked only the second time he has finished below the 1,000-yard mark. His average of 3.9 catches per game was his lowest since that 2006 season. Marshall caught only 46.9 percent of the passes thrown his way, first time in his career he has been below a 50 percent reception rate.
Some of that could be attributed to the fact that he was playing for the New York Jets, who won only five games and went through Ryan Fitzpatrick, Geno Smith and Bryce Petty at quarterback.
You wonder, though, if some of that is age finally catching up to Marshall. He is 33 and has sandwiched the two worst seasons of his career, 2016 and a 61-catch year with the Chicago Bears in 2014 — around a 2015 season that saw him catch 109 passes for 1,502 yards and 14 touchdowns.
Marshall also had a well-publicized locker room feud with Jets defensive lineman Sheldon Richardson.
2017 Season Outlook
Marshall does not have to be a 100+ catch, 1,500-yard guy with the Giants. Not with Odell Beckham Jr. and the plethora of other receiving options the Giants have. What Marshall has to do is use his 6-foot-4, 230-pound frame to be a factor in the red zone and on third down. He needs to be a guy who can make plays and be a threat outside the numbers so that Beckham, Sterling Shepard and maybe even Evan Engram can operate inside those numbers. A 70-catch season where many of those are important ones that put points on the board or sustain drives will be just fine.
Oh, and Marshall needs to stay out of the headlines for the wrong reasons.
The Giants are Marshall’s fifth team. In 11 seasons he has never been to the playoffs, and each of his previous four franchises seemed happy to let him leave town. Self-inflicted, justified, or not, somehow some form of controversy or locker room strife always seems to find Marshall.
That can’t happen this time around if the Giants are to be successful. They have gambled that he has grown and matured as a person, and that his on-field talent will be the thing he is remembered for as a Giant.
So far, Marshall has done and said all the right things.
“I am not a perfect guy, but I worked extremely hard to get into the position that I am in today. The first couple years of my career were rough and a lot of it I did myself, hurt myself. Since that point, once I figured things out, I have worked extremely hard to be a better person and extremely hard to be a better teammate, a better father, a better husband, and I am proud of where I am at today,” Marshall said during OTAs. “I wake up every single day trying to make a positive impact in any room that I step into and you guys are around me every single day, so you know the type of person that I am and that is not going to change here. I am extremely excited about being in this organization.”
Here is more from Marshall about his journey and his work in the mental health community:
“The first couple years of my career – more than the first couple years, probably the first five years, I wasn’t responsible with this amazing platform that we have and once I got that I ended up at McLean Hospital in a three month outpatient program. I studied dialectical behavior therapy, mentalization therapy, self-assessment. I was diagnosed with borderline personality disorder and that was probably the most phenomenal experience for me and the reason why is because this is just a platform to fulfill my purpose, and I truly believe that my wife and I’s purpose is to help bridge the gap in the mental health community and it makes no sense for me to walk into this organization and this locker room and blow that up because [football] is easy,” Marshall said. “I have been doing this since I was six years old. Father time will win eventually, but until then I am just going to continue to kick my own butt and work extremely hard so I can continue to have a voice. We are doing some amazing things in the community and really saving lives and we have to continue to fight the fight.”
On the field, Marshall brings a weapon the Giants did not possess last season. Cruz, a 6-foot and 204 pounds, was a player diminished by leg injuries and miscast playing on the outside rather than the slot. Marshall is a massive outside receiver who can dominate physically and use his size and strength to make difficult catches in traffic. He truly complements the slant game Beckham and Eli Manning have turned into an art form.
#Giants: This is a basic pass concept (Slant-Flat). Goes for a 60-yard TD with Beckham. Speed & big play ability. pic.twitter.com/I9CEPNS6FS— Matt Bowen (@MattBowen41) June 20, 2017
The Giants didn’t have any receivers last season who could do this:
If Marshall still has enough left to be an effective, if not dominant, receiver, and enough hard-fought-for maturity to finally keep controversy at bay he could help the Giants accomplish some special things with their passing attack. If not, he might leave everyone wondering why GM Jerry Reese used money on him that could have gone toward trying to fix the offensive line.
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