The New York Giants (0-4) have a plethora of problems, and there are many reasons for the team’s slow start. But perhaps the biggest surprise is the lack of production they’re getting from one of their prized free-agent signings – wideout Brandon Marshall.
Big Blue is winless, which is a shock, considering most pundits figured the team would take the leap this season and use last year’s playoff appearance as a springboard to something greater. And for all the woes of its offensive line, a lack of a running game, and the fact quarterback Eli Manning looks ordinary any time star receiver Odell Beckham Jr. isn’t in the lineup, Marshall’s struggles – and drops in key moments – seem to stand out the most. The offensive line/running game ineptness has been the bane of Giants’ fans existence for years, and it’s nothing new to see Manning looking very commonplace sans the electric Beckham, but Marshall was brought to the Giants to finally be the No. 2 option that both Manning and Beckham needed.
When Marshall came to Big Blue by way of free agency to help keep the pressure and attention off Beckham, who’s routinely had double-teams and bracket coverage during his prior three seasons, it was considered a boon by most. But Marshall has failed thus far in being a reliable sidekick – and for that, the offense has struggled to find a true rhythm.
Despite losing to the Green Bay Packers in the National Football League Wild Card round, last season, the Giants were seemingly poised for greatness this season. But heading into Sunday’s tilt against the Los Angeles Chargers (0-4), the Giants are one of just three National Football Conference teams below the .500 mark entering Week 5.
Marshall, obviously, isn’t the lone culprit for the losing, but when he came over from the New York Jets, the Giants and its ardent fanbase were relieved, thinking they finally had that great second option in the passing game. Instead, his former team is actually looking better than his current one, while the well-traveled veteran has garnered just 16 receptions (8.7 yards-per-catch average) for 139 yards and has yet to score a touchdown. He’s also committed costly drops – a bugaboo that has reared its head at inopportune moments throughout his career.
The borderline Hall of Famer knows he’s not earning his keep, but when asked if his confidence has been shaken, the six-time Pro Bowler said he’s not wavered.
“I haven’t played the way I’ve wanted to play. I hold myself to a high standard. The guys around here hold me to a high standard,” said Marshall. “There’s high expectations on all of us and looking at myself in the mirror, I want to pick up my play and I’ll do that. But I’m not going to waste too much time thinking about the past. If I do that, then the future is going to be really ugly.”
The immediate future will be really ugly if the Giants can’t find a way to beat the visiting Chargers.
Marshall thinks this Sunday could be a breakout opportunity for both him and the team.
“They present a lot of challenges, but there’s also a lot of opportunities,” said Marshall. “I’ll have my chances to help out the team and be a solution, right, instead of a problem. We’ll figure it out and we’ll get rolling this Sunday.”
The Giants need to figure it out quickly. And perhaps one solution is scaling back Marshall, who has notched 87 percent of the total offensive snaps this season, which trails only second-year wideout Sterling Shepard (94.7 percent) among Giants receivers. During last Sunday’s walk-off loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Marshall played 66 of the 80 offensive snaps, nearly equaling Beckham’s 68-play snap count and that of Shepard (67). Little-used Roger Lewis (14 snaps) was the only other Giants wide receiver to play in the Tampa Bay game.
Maybe it’s time to expand Lewis’s role – he averages 32.4 percent of the offense’s overall snaps — or maybe even get prized rookie tight end Evan Engram more usage, because Marshall’s usage has been almost too high, considering the return on the Giants’ investment (two years/$11 million).
The Giants can actually cut ties next offseason and only suffer a dead-money cap hit of $1 million, which makes an immediate turnaround a must-have for Marshall if he has designs on fulfilling the length of his deal.
Marshall likes to say he took less from Big Blue because he wanted to win now and make the playoffs for the first time in his illustrious 11-year career.
“They definitely didn’t offer me the most money. It was probably the least amount of money,’’ Marshall said upon signing. “It was all about championships, to get straight to the point. They presented the best opportunity to be in a championship organization.’’
That was in the preseason, before the wheels came off for both player and team within the first month of the season. Marshall thought his playoff drought was about to end and the Giants thought they were hoping they got bargain-basement value – Macy’s product at dollar store pricing.
Sadly for both player and team, they have yet to enjoy this union. And time may be running out for the venerable wideout to be the steal pundits thought he’d be, instead of the actuality of him stealing money so far.