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Eli Manning Is Teaching Brandon Marshall A New Language

Brandon Marshall takes us inside learning to play receiver for Eli Manning

NFL: New York Giants-Minicamp William Hauser-USA TODAY Sports

They say that in the NFL learning a new offense is like learning a new language. And if you listen to a quarterback or coach spit out a play call, there’s plenty of credence to the statement — especially in the West Coast Offense.

If that’s true, than Brandon Marshall is something of a football polyglot after being a number one receiver four different teams. But joining the New York Giants is presents a new experience for the well-traveled receiver.

The Giants don’t just use a typically verbiage-dense West Coast offense, but they also play faster than most teams.

“You know what, I feel really comfortable where I’m at right now,” Marshall said after practice. “Obviously I’m not where I need to be, but where I was in OTAs and spring and summer wasn’t a great place as far as feeling like a rookie, new terminology. But it wasn’t even that, I’ve been in several offenses, had several quarterbacks, for some reason the way we do things here is really different. I’ve never really been in a no-huddle offense, the tempo is like learning a new language because everything this non-verbal communication. So, that was difficult for me, but we stuck to it and I’m in a really comfortable place now and there’s some things I still have to figure out. Literally 10 seconds ago, Eli walked in the locker room and took me through five minutes of just throwing things at me, seeing where I was. So, he knows where I’m at and where I’m not at. He’s challenging me every second he gets, so we’ll be where we need to be come Week One.”

When asked how often those pop quizzes come, Marshall could only say, “It’s Eli Manning time. It’s whenever – it’s weird.”


Dance break and MC Hammer references aside, Marshall said that those review sessions can come any time, anywhere.

“No, it’s just real spontaneous,” he said. “I mean, it’s interesting. We may be talking about what type of cereal we’re going to have, and he may just switches the subject to some type of football. So, I really can’t answer that. Literally we just got out of the shower, we had towels on, and he was pretty much half-dressed, and he started giving me signals.”

That, in and of itself, isn’t anything radically new for Marshall — though the towels might be out of the ordinary. What is different is the Giants’ reliance on non-verbal signals to communicate in their no-huddle offense and Manning’s attention to detail.

Jay Cutler and I talked a lot,” Marshall said, “because we had the freedom to change things at the line of scrimmage when it was just him and I and it was only a few routes. We had a go, a slant, a comeback, and maybe a different wrinkle depending on who we were playing that week. Fitzpatrick and I, we talked a lot. So, it’s kind of similar. But this offense, a lot of it is non-verbal, and with Eli, he’s so detailed. He’s probably the most detailed quarterback I’ve been around. He knows what he wants and how he wants it. It took me up until two weeks ago to get this one route down. He threw a ball into the ground and I was two steps off. Literally two steps off, and he pulled me to the side and just kept coaching me and walking me through it. Any other quarterback, it would have been perfect, right? But with this guy, no, it’s two steps. So, he’s special – he’s really detailed.”

Eli has consistently been viewed as a less-cerebral and less detail oriented quarterback than his older brother. Other players have mentioned how studious the younger Manning is, but it’s something Marhsall’s experience seems to drive home. He has played with many quarterbacks over the years, including the Harvard educated Ryan Fitzpatrick, but he still seems blown away by Manning.

Marshall elaborated on one play that he believes Manning threw at him as a test. He said, “Yeah, so there’s several ways we can get to different routes. I thought he did it on purpose; I think he knew I didn’t have that one down. He’s like, ‘you’ve got to know it!’ So, I won’t make that mistake again. But there’s certain things that we’ve really been connecting on and built some chemistry on, and the DBs know, so, he wanted to switch up our communication so they didn’t get a tip. I’ve never seen that one before, I told him, but now I’ve got it.”

He might have made progress in the offense, but Marshall also recognizes that he may never have the kind of rapport with Eli that Odell Beckham Jr. does. But he is confident that he’ll be effective nonetheless.

“We’re not going to be where he and WR Odell Beckham Jr. are right now,” he said. “They know each other so well, and it takes time. It could even take years, but I think we’ll be in a good position where I can help pull coverage off of Odell and make his job easier. I could make sure the middle (of the field) is a little bigger for WR Sterling Shepard and TE Evan Engram. We’ll be fine. We’ll have some good chemistry this year; I can say that. But I can’t put any timetable on it.”