FLORHAM PARK- It took a fifth-round pick to get Brandon Marshall from the Windy City to the Big Apple. But what Marshall has meant to the Jets offense in the nine months since? Well, that's worthy of three first rounders.
Marshall has been everything GM Mike Maccagnan could have hoped for and more since arriving in northern New Jersey. In his first 11 games with his new team, he's has already caught 71 passes for 931 yards and nine touchdowns. Marshall's nearing the Jets team record for most receiving touchdowns in a season (14), closing in on the record for receptions (93) and this weekend could become the team's first 1,000-yard receiver since Jerricho Cotchery in 2006.
So, what exactly makes the big-bodied wideout so special? According to Jets offensive coordinator Chan Gailey, it's his, well, big body.
"He's just so hard to handle size wise, he's just so hard to handle," Gailey said. "He can run, he's not a burner, but he can run well enough that you can sit there and play a certain leverage on him and win. He can figure out how to win with enough speed to get it done.
"You combine that speed and size and ball skills, it's a pretty good combination."
Add in Marshall's high football IQ and how well he understands leverage, and Gailey says you get a player that's near impossible to cover 1-on-1. Even in perfect coverage, Marshall can figure out a way to maneuver his body into a position where he can go up and get the ball.
It happened last Sunday against the Miami Dolphins when Marshall caught a touchdown on a goal-line fade from quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick. Even on non-scores, but simply connections on various points on the field, Marshall's constantly using his body control to his advantage.
It's why the wideout can't be covered with just one person. As a result, teams are using two and three guys to take Marshall out of the game. But Gailey says the more times teams do that, it opens up other options.
Eric Decker has been the beneficiary in the past. Now, rookie second-round pick Devin Smith is taking advantage, too. After struggling through the early portions of the season, Smith caught the first touchdown of his career a week ago.
It seems like a far-distant memory that the Jets offense was one of the more anemic in the NFL. Now, not even taking into consideration running back Chris Ivory, the Jets have a passing attack that's nearing three-deep.
"Right now, [the opposing defense] has two issues," Gailey said. "They have Decker and they have Brandon. If you can add a third one to that, now you really create problems for people and I think we're going to get there."