When Brandon Marshall caught a pass on the first day of training camp, it allowed him to let out a bit of an exhale. It showed to the world and to himself, the 33-year-old receiver said, that he’s still got it.
Since then, Marshall has had a mostly understated summer. A few grabs here and there. Nothing to raise any concerns, but nothing to raise any eyebrows, either.
On Monday, though, Marshall gave the Giants their first real glimpse of the pass-catching force they hope he can be. In his most prolific practice since signing with the team in the offseason, Marshall seemed to be all over the field. One minute he was blowing past cornerback Eli Apple at the line of scrimmage and making a juggling catch on a deep pass in the end zone, the next he was emerging with the football from an intersection filled with defensive backs trying to knock it away.
Yes, he’s still got it. More significantly, though, Monday showed that he is starting to get it.
It’s hard not to draw a line between this burst of productivity in practice with a growing confidence in the playbook, not to mention a budding chemistry with Eli Manning. Marshall looked as confident and decisive as he has all camp, a great sign with the regular-season opener looming Sept. 10.
“I think we’re doing some good stuff,” Manning said. “Brandon and I are getting on the same page. Every day there’s something new that comes up, though. A route here, a concept, just getting on the same timing. You can kind of talk about everything, but you’ve got to get in as many live reps, one-on-ones, get running different routes. Getting on the same timing with things will be good.”
That seemed to be the case Monday. Even though Ben McAdoo downplayed the number of targets Marshall received as a coincidence — “It just depends on the call,” he said. “We’re just rolling calls out there” — he could not deny the show that Marshall put on.
“He had some more opportunities today and took advantage of those opportunities,” McAdoo said.
Marshall often is compared to Plaxico Burress, the last big-bodied receiver with whom Manning had an opportunity to play. Their body styles may be somewhat similar, but Manning said his connection with Marshall hasn’t hit Plax levels yet.
“Obviously, Plaxico, I had a number of years playing with him, so I knew what he was going to do,” Manning said. “I knew how to read his body. I knew whether it was going to be a back shoulder versus a fly or a jump ball.”
It took three full seasons to get to that point with Burress, from their first training camp together in 2005 to wide open in the end zone in Super Bowl XLII after the 2007 season. With Marshall, the key to their success will be cramming all of that learning in under his self-imposed deadline. Marshall signed a two-year contract with the Giants and said he plans to retire at the end of that deal. That doesn’t give them much time to forge a strong bond.
“Brandon’s been great,” Manning said. “Every day trying to learn, always has questions for me and we’re trying to figure out what he can do better, how we can get on the same page. I think he’s been dialed in and been a great leader and just setting the example for how to be prepared for every practice.”
It’ll take a bit longer before the quarterback and receiver are completely synched.
“We need more live reps doing that,” Manning said.
Maybe a few more practices like Monday’s will help.