Trying to bounce back from a dreadful lone season with the New York Giants, the Seattle Seahawks took a flier on Brandon Marshall to see if the big-bodied receiver had anything left in the tank.
Due to his age, injuries, and a decline in production over the past two years, his signing was met with skepticism by many NFL writers, including myself. Even with his impressive, potentially Hall of Fame caliber credentials, he’s been a trendy pick to receive a pink slip before the season opener at Denver.
While the rest of the league may consider the 34-year old receiver toast, Marshall returned from two offseason surgeries, a hamstring injury, and rigorous rehabilitation for his first full practice with the Seahawks on Thursday. Battling back tears of joy after breaking the huddle for the first time in months, he emerged from the session with renewed confidence and optimism.
"Today was the first day where I felt like myself." Marshall told reporters, adding: "This is the best I’ve felt in a year. I’m still trying to get there, in mid-season form, but today felt good and reminded me I can play some ball."
With Doug Baldwin potentially out for the rest of the preseason nursing a knee injury, the Seahawks decision to sign Marshall suddenly holds far greater significance. Instead of him clinging to his football life as a red zone specialist at the back of the depth chart, the 6-foot-4, 230 pound target may be counted on to turn back the clock like it's 2015 again.
There's no question Marshall has lost a step or two, but after watching him snag a touchdown catch on a fade route with rookie Tre Flowers in coverage during 11-on-11 team drills, he remains more than capable of finding the end zone. Though he claimed he'd let his play do the talking, after staying relatively quiet during his Seahawks tenure to this point, the veteran receiver made it known he still believes he's a force to reckon with.
"I'm not here to be just a guy." Marshall said, showing a familiar swagger he's exhibited throughout 12 NFL seasons. "I'm here to be the beast I've always been. I'm confident I'll be able to do that in the next couple weeks."
Even with diminished athleticism compared to earlier in his career, Marshall still looks fluid running routes and his rare size for the position will allow him to win contested jump balls as he enters the twilight of his career. He also will have the luxury of catching passes from Russell Wilson, who should be a major upgrade over signal callers he teamed up with at previous stops such as Jay Cutler and Ryan Fitzpatrick.
After losing Jimmy Graham and Paul Richardson in free agency, the Seahawks entered camp with a very young, unproven receiving nucleus aside from speedy veteran Tyler Lockett and ex-Cardinal Jaron Brown. Second-year players David Moore and Amara Darboh have seen extended action with the first-team offense, while Keenan Reynolds, Cyril Grayson, and Damore'ea Stringfellow have also been in the mix with Baldwin and Moore sidelined recently.
Coming off a season in which he posted career-lows in receptions (18) and receiving yards (154) while failing to score a single touchdown for the first time in his career, the revival of vintage Brandon Marshall would be a huge boost for the Seahawks offense and take pressure off of some of the youngsters battling for snaps alongside him. If he can keep his ego in his check and show maturity that evaded him earlier in his career, he also might provide some unexpected veteran leadership for players like Darboh and Moore.
Time will tell how chemistry develops between Wilson and his new receiver as he continues to work his way back into football shape, but one thing remains certain: Marshall isn't here to simply wear a helmet and shoulder pads again on the sideline and plans to be a critical component of Seattle's passing attack.