To say the New York Jets have lacked production from the wide receiver position in recent seasons would be an understatement. Eric Decker managed a respectable 74 receptions for 962 yards and 5 touchdowns in 2014 despite missing time with injuries and abysmal quarterbacking. However, prior to that here is the Jets leading receiver every season since Jerricho Cotchery eclipsed 1,000 yards in 2007:
- 2008: Jerricho Cotchery – 71 receptions, 858 yards, 5 touchdowns
- 2009: Jerricho Cotchery – 57 receptions, 821 yards, 3 touchdowns
- 2010: Braylon Edwards – 53 receptions, 904 yards, 7 touchdowns
- 2011: Santonio Holmes – 51 receptions, 654 yards, 8 touchdowns
- 2012: Jeremy Kerley – 56 receptions, 827 yards, 2 touchdowns
- 2013: Jeremy Kerley – 43 receptions, 523 yards, 3 touchdowns
- 2014: Eric Decker – 74 receptions, 962 yards, 5 touchdowns
Enter Brandon Marshall, who was acquired for a 5th round pick this off-season. Marshall has been over 1,000 yards in seven of his last eight seasons and exceeded ten touchdowns in three of those years. In 2014, a lung and rib injury kept him out of the final 3.5 games of the season but he still managed 721 yards and eight touchdowns. Marshall has found success throughout his career despite playing with an erratic Jay Cutler, Josh McCown, Matt Moore, Chad Henne, and Kyle Orton.
Let’s take a deeper dive into Marshall’s game and how it could be integrated into the 2015 New York Jets offense…
Marshall stands at 6’4, 230 pounds with a tremendous catch radius. At first glance, it is logical to assume he will fit primarily as the offense’s “X” receiver, book ending a twin tower duo on the outside with Decker. Marshall will spend his share of time on the outside but don’t pigeonhole his location on the offense. Despite lacking top end vertical speed, Marshall has quick feet and the ability to run routes with impressive precision. Prior to his injury last season, he spent over 49% of his offensive snaps in the slot, a position he has had success with throughout his career.
Marshall is not a body catcher and generally does a very good job of attacking the football and snatching it with his hands. However, he has been prone to drops at different points throughout his career, primarily due to a lack of concentration while attempting to run before securing the football. Marshall is a a beast after the catch but can let his desire to run with the football lead to mental lapses.
For Jets fans looking for some type of comparison to a player they have seen recently on the team’s roster, think of Braylon Edwards’ 2010 season, his best year in New York. Edwards at his best for the Jets was a poor man’s Marshall, who lacked the same route running ability, flexibility in the slot and overall YAC threat.
As mentioned earlier, Marshall does a good amount of his damage from the slot. This route below is a clinic on how to play wide receiver. He gets a clean release using his hands, stacks the cover man while staying on his route stem, sits in the chair to sell his route to the outside and then snaps inside for a chain moving reception.
Later in the same game, Marshall again releases from the slot as part of a four vertical route concept. The coverage is technically fine but Marshall has such a size advantage that Jay Cutler is correct in putting the ball up to Marshall and letting him play basketball with a much smaller defender. The result is a spectacular touchdown. If a team is going to match-up a safety or slot corner on Marshall, he is going to win the match-up every single time. It is important for the Jets quarterback to recognize in situations like this that Marshall is “open,” even when he is covered.
Marshall is not going to consistently win on vertical routes on the outside, whether that is a nine route or deep post from the X position. His inability to be a traditional vertical threat can impede his effectiveness on deep comebacks or curl routes against smarter, top-tier cornerbacks, who are not concerned with him running by them. Brandon Browner will never be mistaken for a burner at corner but is able to play Marshall well below on the nine route, while Darrelle Revis successfully squats on a curl route, which Marshall doesn’t do a good job of driving deep and then fighting back to the football on.
When Marshall was able to get deep on opposing defenses, it was again his ability in the slot that came in useful. In the first clip against Atlanta, Marshall is in the inside receiver in a tight bunch and runs a deep waggle route for a 40+ yard gain. In the second clip, he wins on a vertical route up the seam from the slot that culminates in a highlight reel one handed catch. He is dangerous in motion and working out of a bunch or stacked formation where he can get a clean release to pick up speed on a deep route.
Marshall is a physical player for a wide receiver, who is able to engage in contact with a defensive back and then quickly shake them to break into his route. Cornerbacks who lack size are going to struggle if asked to press up on him. Marshall can get himself into trouble with larger corners or safeties at times by relying on his own physicality too much and ultimately getting knocked off his route stem by contact. However, most defensive backs in the league are going to lose when trying to fight Marshall at the line of scrimmage.
Marshall’s size creates an obvious advantage in the red-zone, where he has thrived throughout his career. He can win with size but the quickness of his feet consistently help to create separation on fade or corner routes, along with working the back line. Few teams in the league will have secondaries equipped to handle Marshall and Decker, who is a good red-zone receiver in his own right, at the same time. If Jace Amaro continues to develop, it will also provide another basketball sized receiving target for defenses to worry about.
Marshall’s physicality and YAC ability should also help in the short passing game. He is a receiver who can regularly turn a smoke screen or flat route from a 2 yard gain to a 10 yard gain, which will be a needed boost to whoever is under for the Jets this season.
Marshall is the most talented wide receiver the Jets have had on their roster since Keyshawn Johnson in his prime. Last year there was an excitement about adding a potential top 25 receiver in Eric Decker. This year there should be excitement about adding a potential top 8-10 receiver in the NFL, which is exactly what Marshall is when healthy. The Jets don’t owe him any guaranteed money beyond this season but the hope has to be he performs to a level that merits him being a key component in 2016 as well. Expect Marshall to be frequently moved around the formation and to create many of his biggest plays from the slot. He should also provide a shot in the arm to the Jets red-zone offense and create plays with his legs in the short passing game. His injuries last season coupled with his age are a fair concern but Marshall has a much larger sample size of being productive than he does of not being productive. The quarterback situation still needs to shake out but Marshall and Decker should be one of the better starting wide receiver duos in the league.