By Ernie Palladino
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Brandon Marshall got his wish.
In signing his two-year, $11 million deal with the Giants, the former Jets wide receiver joined a team that stands a lot closer to his first-ever postseason berth — maybe even a Super Bowl — than his previous stop.
He’s now part of what should become the most dynamic passing attack in the league. And at 6-foot-4, he is his new team’s tallest end zone and third-down target since Plaxico Burress helped Big Blue to a Lombardi Trophy in 2007.
Marshall couldn’t have picked a better stage.
But now, the rest is up to him.
All of this — the height, the hunger for the postseason, his speed — won’t work unless Marshall faces the one fact of his new life in the NFL that comes hard for any star receiver to accept.
He’s not the No. 1 guy anymore.
Important? Yes. But Odell Beckham, Jr. remains the rightful owner of the title of Big Blue’s primary receiver. Whether he likes it or not, Marshall is going to have to sacrifice some of his catches to Beckham.
That’s what happens when you go to a team sporting one of two of the most exciting, productive receivers in the sport. But even understanding that may not make things easier for Marshall, who didn’t take a back seat to anyone on any of his four previous teams, compiling six 100-catch seasons.
It’s a far different situation than what Burress walked into in 2005. He automatically became Manning’s primary target, and he would have remained in that position had he kept his Glock at home during that one fateful night in 2008.
Manning was a different quarterback then, too. He was more of a game manager. It wasn’t until 2009 that Manning found Steve Smith 107 times to make him the Giants’ first triple-digit wideout.
Manning’s current nature has been that of a thrower, a sometimes erratic passer, but air-oriented nevertheless. And Beckham has been the main recipient of Manning’s attention, with 91 and 96 grabs in two seasons before last year‘s 101-catch performance.
That isn’t likely to change now that Marshall is here. And that will be quite an adjustment for a man who put together triple-digit efforts three of his four years in Denver, two out of three years in Chicago, and one out of two with the Jets. Though he fell short in two years with Miami, he was still the main guy.
Perhaps Marshall’s desire to finally play in the postseason will prove sufficient for him to sublimate his various skills to a younger playmaker. If he does that, he will mentally free himself to concentrate on all those end zone fades and over-the-middle grabs Marshall has in his future.
After all, even with the reduced production, Marshall is still looking at between 70 and 80 potential catches and a ton of touchdowns. Those numbers are nothing to sneeze at.
But Marshall has had trouble keeping his mouth shut about such things. As good as he is, he could become a negative in the locker room if the ball doesn’t come his way enough. That would certainly hurt an offense trying to rise from a 19.4-point scoring average.
What happens after a bad loss? He and Sheldon Richardson had it out after the Jets’ Week 3 setback to the Chiefs. In 2009, Broncos coach Josh McDaniels suspended him for the rest of the preseason after a practice flip-out where he punted a ball away and knocked down passes.
The Bears couldn’t wait to get rid of him.
For the most part, though, observers say Marshall has changed his ways. That’s a good thing.
But we still don’t know how he’ll react if Beckham continues to reel in the majority of passes.
He’s never been No. 2.
General manager Jerry Reese may have just signed the second component to one of the greatest receiving duos the NFL has ever seen.
Or he might have signed a problem.
It all depends on how Marshall takes to his new role in the backseat while Beckham drives the passing game.
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