Denver WR Brandon Marshall is tied for the NFL lead in receptions despite missing the season opener
As the saying goes, "Good things come to those who wait."
For the Denver Broncos' players, coaches and fans, that maxim held true when it came to the anticipation they felt for the 2008 debut of rising superstar wide receiver Brandon Marshall.
Delayed by one game due to a league-mandated suspension, Marshall's grand entrance in Week Two certainly made up for lost time, as he reeled in a franchise-record 18 passes for 166 yards and a touchdown in the Broncos' thrilling 39-38 win over the San Diego Chargers.
Marshall went on to post six grabs for 155 yards and a score in Week Three against New Orleans and another seven catches for 77 yards and a touchdown in Week Four against Kansas City, leaving him tied for the league lead in receptions (31), fourth in receiving yards (398), tied for fifth in touchdowns (3) and first in yards per game (132.7).
Despite his outstanding start to the season and incredible ascension up the statistical leader boards – even after missing a game – Marshall doesn't view his status as the Broncos' go-to guy or his performance to date as a sign that he has arrived as a top-tier wideout.
Not yet, at least.
"I think it's just an opportunity," Marshall said. "I don't think that we are going out of our way as a team trying to get me the ball but we are just taking advantage of our mismatches and [Head] Coach [Mike] Shanahan does a great job of putting people in positions to make plays."
Even Shanahan himself would agree with that statement, saying he was caught a little bit off guard by Marshall's record-setting 18 catches in his first game of 2008.
"That doesn't happen very much, does it?" Shanahan said with a bit of a laugh. "Especially when you're off a week. I had no idea he caught that many until after the game, but it kind of gives you an idea what he's capable of doing."
The potential the 6-4, 230-pound Marshall possesses is what has his fans in Denver expecting even bigger things. A freakish athlete with the size to out-muscle smaller defenders and the speed to outrun most others, Marshall entered the league ready to compete from day one, at least on a physical level.
The point of focus since then, however, has been on developing the other aspects of his game.
"Even from the first day he was pretty impressive," Shanahan said. "Like most receivers, you've got to learn how to be a pro and that comes with time. But he works extremely hard to get better on a day-to-day basis. I'm really proud of his progress."
As for Marshall, he agrees that there is plenty of room for improvement in his already-impressive skill set and that most of the progress he can still make is in the mental part of the game.
"Absolutely, I need to be more consistent in the game plan," Marshall said. "We always talk about being the best, and being the best is not always making a great catch or having a lot of yards. Sometimes it is just being where you are supposed to be when you're not getting the ball or when you're on the backside of things. I need to do a better job of getting in my books and not getting complacent with where I am at with the game plan."
Marshall plans to continue his hard work as he tries to rise into the realm of the league's elite wide receivers. More importantly and more immediately, he wants to help the 3-1 Broncos reach greater heights.
"It is a long season and we can't get content with where we are at as an offense and as a team, as an organization," Marshall said. "We just have to continue to push and continue to try to be successful and accomplish our goals."