Largely, that’s been the crew responsible for throwing Marshall passes since he turned pro in 2006. Yet he ranks 2nd in catches, 2nd in yards and 4th in TDs since ’06.
Impressive. No question about that.
Now, after signing a 2-year, $12 million deal with the Giants, he’ll play with his best QB to date.
Marshall won’t disagree.
“Not probably. He is,” Marshall said (via USA Today) when someone suggested Eli Manning is ‘probably’ the best he’s played with. “I’ve played with some great quarterbacks. Ryan Fitzpatrick is probably one of my favorite quarterbacks that I’ve played with. I see a lot of similarities there. I don’t think people realize how hard Eli works in the film room and in the classroom, and how he’s an amazing leader. Obviously, we know about his physical ability. What’s not reported is how hard he works off the field.”
Manning didn’t play his best football last year, falling shy of career averages in yards per attempt (6.7) and TD rate (4.3%). Hampered by a leaky O-line, he posted 20 turnovers, which drew criticism from HC Ben McAdoo at the Combine.
But recall the success Manning enjoyed in 2014 and 2015 with McAdoo in charge. The now 36-year-old tallied 2 of his best seasons ever — 4,410-30-14 in 2014 and 4,432-35-14 in 2015. This quick-strike offense should mesh well with a big-bodied target like Marshall (6’4, 230). And it figures to flow much more efficiently than the one Marshall was a member of in 2016. An NFL-low 55% of his targets were deemed “catchable,” per Pro Football Focus. That helps explain a laughable 46.5% catch rate.
Again, Manning is a clear upgrade. And he’s back in business as a QB1 streamer.
So, now on his 5th NFL team, how does Marshall fit in?
Before we get to target volume, it’s worth pointing out the success Marshall’s had in each of his 4 stops. In fact, he’s the only player in league history to record 1,000+ yards with 4 different teams. A new playbook shouldn’t hinder him.
Unmistakably, though, he’s now a #2 option. Odell Beckham saw a 28% target share last year — tied for 3rd highest among WRs. He posted another strong season (99-1424-11) and doesn’t turn 25 until November.
Meanwhile, Sterling Shepard takes a hit after garnering an 18% target share in year one (105 targets). That’s an absolute basement floor for Marshall, who’s averaged 155 targets per year since 2007 (albeit as a #1 WR). Victor Cruz leaves behind another 72 targets, while the Giants remain without a playmaking TE. We’ll see how they address the position in free agency and/or the draft.
RB will be another position to watch. New York’s lack of productivity on the ground helps explain why they’ve ranked top-10 in pass rate in consecutive seasons (61.61% and 61.73%). Manning also finished 7th in pass attempts in 2016 and 4th in 2015. It’s a clear positive for Marshall, but bolstering the RB group could balance this offense out a bit.
Is age an issue?
Turning 33 in March, it’s fair to wonder how much Marshall has left in the tank. But history shows that it's not terribly uncommon for age 33 (or older) WRs to produce. Since 2000, there have been 33 such cases of a WR fitting that requirement and eclipsing 1,000 yards.
Marshall’s remained relatively durable, too, in recent years. He missed only Week 17 last year with hip and shoulder injuries. He played a full slate of games in 2015, 2013, 2012 and 2011. He sat out 3 games in 2014 with an ankle injury.
Red zone factor
Marshall should make his biggest impact in the red zone. He’s posted 8+ TDs in 4 of the past 5 seasons and finished top-8 in red zone targets in 5 of the last 6. Marshall’s size popped up in the 1st section, but it’s particularly powerful when compared to Beckham (5’11, 198) and Shepard (5’10, 194). Another 8 TD season is well within reach, boosting his profile as a low-end WR2.