Brandon Marshall exploded on the NFL scene last year and became one of the league’s best weakside linebackers. Replacing the previous season’s leader in tackles, Danny Trevathan, Marshall went on to record 113 combined tackles, a forced fumble, two sacks, and an interception for the Denver Broncos in 2014.
He played at a Pro Bowl level, despite missing out on the actual honor of the NFL All-Star game. However, he has earned the respect of his peers and teammates and even recently, earned some high praise from the leading football analytics website Pro Football Focus, as their choice for the Broncos "Secret Superstar".
As impressive as his 2014 campaign was, the former fifth round pick of the Jacksonville Jaguars was disappointed in how his season ended. He injured his foot late in the year, which caused him to miss a couple of games and led to offseason surgery.
As he rehabs from the procedure on his foot, he’s been held out of the Broncos organized team activities, relegated to the classroom, along with Trevathan. The mental reps have helped him learn the new 3-4 defense Wade Phillips brought to the team, but Marshall is champing at the bit to get out on the grass.
“It’s been kind of tough because I’m used to always being out there doing my part to get better and help the team so it’s been a little rough, but I’m taking this time to really get my body right, really get my mind right and I think it’ll be beneficial,” Marshall said yesterday from Dove Valley.
Yesterday, Trevathan spoke of his goal to be recovered and ready in time for training camp in late July, and Marshall echoed that sentiment, speaking for himself.
“I’ll be back in training camp,” he said. “That’s what the word is. Until [I hear] otherwise, that’s what it is.. Probably the start. I should be able to do some drills at the start of training camp. I’m not sure about everything else but I know I’ll be able to do drills at the start of training camp.”
Marshall has two screws in his foot, resulting from his surgery. He’s been rehabbing with them all offseason and he talked about whether he can expect to play with the screws in his foot all season.
“The whole season, yeah,” he said. “And then they’ll remove them after the season.”
As annoying and disappointing as it is not being able to practice with his teammates because of injury, Marshall knows he has to take his time and as he mentioned, get his body right. In the meantime, it’s crucial that he take advantage of his opportunities to learn in the meeting room.
“In the meeting rooms I try to be locked in,” he said. “I try to be dialed in on the field and I try to get all the calls and try to put myself in the position of the players while they’re in there. Me and [ILB] Danny [Trevathan] try to do the same thing. Get the call, we understand it, OK—we’ll be right here or whatever the case may be. There is a lot of responsibility so I think mental reps are just as important.”
With the Broncos learning and installing a new defense, it could be argued that Marshall and Trevathan’s rehab came at a most inopportune time. As much as he’s learned in the classroom, Marshall knows he needs to get out on the field to truly assimilate to the new scheme.
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”If this was last year’s defense, if this was the same defense, I think no one would really ask if we needed to play because it’s the old system,” he said. “But I think the new system we need to get in and get acclimated to it.”
In 2015, Marshall will play the strongside inside linebacker position in the Broncos 3-4 defense, or the “Mike”. Last season, he played the weakside linebacker position, mostly, in the Broncos 4-3 scheme. Marshall doesn’t see a cause for concern, as he and the team transition to Phillips’ system.
“It’s not a whole lot different in my eyes because it’s kind of the same just a different title to the defense,” he said. “But it’s less complicated, it’s not as intricate as it was with [former Defensive Coordinator Jack] Del Rio’s defense. It will be less to think about which I think will help us out.”
We’ve heard that mantra a lot this offseason from Broncos defenders. Less thinking, more reacting. For a unit as stacked as the Broncos defense, scheming them to think less and just play bodes well for the team’s 2015 prospects.
However, for the Broncos to truly be a dominant defensive force, they’ll need their starting inside linebackers, Marshall and Trevathan. Broncos fans must remain patient for just a little while longer. Both players are where they need to be in their recovery and have suffered no setbacks in their respective rehabs.
If all goes as planned, Broncos Country can expect to see their starting inside linebackers out on the field when the team opens up training camp in late July.