Brandon Marshall interrupted his chess game with teammate J.T. Thomas on Thursday to talk to reporters. The wide receiver was asked which piece on the board would best represent him on the football field.
“Pawn,” he said quickly, “because I’m getting smacked right now.”
It has not been an auspicious start to the season for Marshall, who joined the Giants as a free agent in the offseason. In two games, he been targeted nine times and caught two passes for 27 yards. That is the worst production he has had in a two-game span in any season since he played sporadically as a rookie in Denver in 2006.
The only stretch that comes close was with the Bears in 2014. He caught three passes for 25 yards over two games, but one of those went for a touchdown.
““It is an unusual position,” Marshall said. “In the past, I always kind of started decent or hot and have been able to help the team. So far I haven’t been able to help the way I wanted to, or to meet expectations. But we’ll figure it out and we’ll get it going.”
Marshall insists he does not have to catch a lot of passes to be effective, so he does not consider his one-reception performance in Week 1 a bad game. Monday night’s loss to the Lions, though, was a different story. He had an opportunity to make a big catch down the sideline and dropped the ball.
If the rest of the offense were humming along, such a miscue might be barely noticeable. On a team that is starving for any positives on offense, it stands out as a squandered opportunity.
“The team needed a big play, I had an opportunity to make a big play, and I didn’t,” he said. “You need that type of playmaking ability, you need that type of excitement, and things will change.”
Marshall, 33, is confident that he still can provide that. He pointed out that the tracking devices the team uses to monitor speed in practices show he is faster than he was in the previous two seasons with the Jets. He feels as if he is the same player he was for most of his career, one of the NFL’s top receivers, even if the numbers don’t reflect that.
“No one cares about your past,” he said. “Every year you have to prove yourself. That’s what makes this game so special. It doesn’t matter if you are an All-Pro or make the Pro Bowl, win a Super Bowl, you have to come back the next year and do it all over again and do it better. So far I haven’t been able to do that.”
This week would be a good time to start. The Giants are 0-2 and facing as close to a must-win game in mid-September as there can be. Their offense has shown few signs of life. Odell Beckham Jr. will be playing and closer to full strength for them, and the Eagles’ secondary is riddled with injuries. Both would indicate an opportunity for Marshall to shake off his slow start.
The answer to all of it, Marshall insisted, is straightforward and simple.
“Make a play,” he said. “That’s it. That’s all you have to do is make a play. Good players need to play good and elite players need to play elite. Big-time players need to make big plays in big situations. That’s what it’s about.”
That’s how pawns quickly become kings in this town.