Broncos brace for Marshall’s absence
Rocky Mountain News
Vail, CO Colorado
DENVER, Colorado ” Take Brandon Marshall out of the offense and the math turns ugly for the Broncos.
After all, Marshall had 31 percent of the team’s receptions last season (102), 35 percent of the team’s receiving yards (1,325), 31 percent of the team’s receptions of 20 yards or longer (13) and 33 percent of the receiving touchdowns (seven).
And unless others can pick up the slack, that’s 100 percent trouble.
“We know what he means to the offense,” Broncos tight end Tony Scheffler said. “That’s a big blow. It would mean it’s on all of us to try and fix it because he’s had three or four big plays every day in practice.”
After weeks of waiting to hear his fate, Marshall was suspended Tuesday for the first three games of the regular season for violating the league’s personal-conduct policy.
League officials said NFL commissioner Roger Goodell will consider reducing the suspension to two games if Marshall complies with counseling, as well as other conditions with the suspension.
Marshall will appeal the suspension, but that raises the possibility the penalty would begin later in the season if he doesn’t win the appeal. An appeal must be filed to the league within 10 days of the suspension, and league rules state a player would get “a prompt” hearing.
But there are only four weeks until the start of the regular season. Neither Marshall nor Broncos coach Mike Shanahan were available for comment.
“He’s a good kid,” Broncos cornerback Dre Bly said. “It’s unfortunate. . . . I know everybody here wants him in the lineup. He’s a big part of what we do.”
Barring any changes, Marshall’s suspension would begin just after the Broncos’ Aug. 29 preseason finale in Arizona. He would be eligible to return Monday, Sept. 22, in preparation for the Sept. 28 game at Kansas City.
Denver’s first three games are at Oakland and home against San Diego and New Orleans.
That would leave the Broncos offense searching for the kind of impact Marshall has flashed daily on the practice field in training camp. Darrell Jackson, who has lined up opposite Marshall in the starting offense, has three career 1,000-yard seasons, the third being in 2004, and had a 10-touchdown season as recently as 2006.
But most personnel executives contacted Tuesday night said they weren’t sure Jackson could operate as a No. 1 receiver in his ninth year. Jackson said he’s ready for more, having been mired in the league’s lowest-rated offense last season in San Francisco.
“I know what I can do,” he said. “I feel like I can produce in this offense. Last year (in San Francisco) was tough – we were at the bottom all year. It was hard for everybody.”
Rookie Eddie Royal has lined up as Marshall’s backup at that receiver spot and almost certainly would get more time with Marshall on the sideline. Royal has shown the ability to make some space for himself coming in and out of his routes and he consistently has caught most everything thrown his way.
Royal would get more time because the Broncos want to keep veteran Brandon Stokley in a third receiver role, citing the injuries he suffered last season when he had to start for the injured Javon Walker.
Scheffler, who caught 49 passes on a chronically sore foot last season – he fractured it in preseason workouts in May 2007 – is expected to be a bigger contributor in the offense as well.
Keary Colbert, who has caught more than 32 passes in only one of his four previous seasons, and Samie Parker, who has one 40-catch season in his career, also are veterans the Broncos sought in free agency to pump up the passing game.
The Broncos also could lean on their running game more. Selvin Young and Andre Hall have worked as the No. 1 and No. 2 backs, but the Broncos like what rookies Ryan Torain and Anthony Alridge have done as well.
“I like our group,” Hall said. “I think we’re going to run the ball better than we did last year. We’ve got size, we’ve got speed, we can do a lot of things. So we know as backs we have to step up if they need us. We can carry it as many times as they need us to.”
Marshall is eligible to participate in all preseason practices and games.