After being targeted on 40 percent of pass plays last season, and then getting the double and even triple teams that went along with that kind of attention, Marshall has always felt that a productive Jeffery would make life, not to mention catches and yards, a whole lot easier.
Perhaps Marshall is staring in the face of a productive game against the winless New York Giants on Thursday night, especially after Jeffery went off for 10 catches, 218 yards and a touchdown Sunday in a 26-18 loss to the New Orleans Saints.
“In a selfish way -- if you want to talk about selfish and 'I' -- that’s the reason I wanted him down in Florida last year (working out) with me,” Marshall said. “Last year, you look at some of the things teams were able to do with us, and you look at the statistics where 40 percent of our passing game came through me. Alshon was banged up and Earl (Bennett) was banged up with a hand a little bit. We really didn’t have a stable guy on the other side or the tight end position to really help.”
With Martellus Bennett already making his mark from the tight-end position and Jeffery seemingly in sync, Marshall figures to do better than the season lows of four catches and 30 yards that he delivered Sunday. Marshall expressed his frustration over his lack of production after Sunday’s game.
The disappointment has caused something of a chicken-or-the egg conundrum for Marshall. Some view his desire for more production as self-serving. Others, like quarterback Jay Cutler, don’t so much see a me-first approach, but rather a confident player who knows he can help a team to win.
“I think everyone is frustrated when you lose two games in a row like that,” the quarterback said on ESPN-1000’s weekly “Jay Cutler Show.”
“That being said, I've known him for a long time and know what kind of ultra-competitor that he is, and when you lose a game, any competitor will think, 'Hey, what if I'd done more and what if I had more touches? Could I have impacted the game more than I already did?' I just think he's kind of feeling that.”
Marshall knows the negative perception that is out there, but on Tuesday he continued to reiterate that his attitude has the team’s best interest in mind.
“You pay a receiver $10 million for them to be OK with him not being productive? Get out of here,” Marshall said. “When I’m a coach, or if I’m an owner of a team one day and I’m paying a receiver that much money and he’s happy, if he’s not complaining, or not communicating with me about wanting more (production), he got to go.”
But wanting to be productive is one thing. Sometimes it’s counterproductive to try and get a star receiver his catches when situations like double teams say it’s best to throw the ball elsewhere. Marshall still seems to have a tough time balancing the desire to produce with the logic of why things might not always go his way.
“There was one play when I was at the 3-yard line running down the middle if the field and three in the red zone and guys were on me,” Marshall said. “I was like, 'This is pretty cool.' That’s respect. At the same time, the NFL, and this is where the truth thing comes in, it’s a what-have-you-done-for-me-lately business. It’s about production. I’m not saying it’s about me, it’s about our offense.”
Perhaps a triple team shouldn’t be about respect. It should be about loving the fact that somebody like Jeffery or Earl Bennett or Martellus Bennett could be working their way to an open spot on the field.
“Yeah, that’s obvious, but there is so much more that comes into it, like schemes or different things we can do,” Marshall said. “Of course that makes sense. You can’t throw the ball into double coverage. It makes sense.”
Perhaps if there is confusion as to what truly motivates Marshall, he might only have himself, and his mixed messages to blame.
“It’s not a greedy instinct,” Marshall said. “The quarterback touches the ball every single play, he controls the game. The offensive linemen don’t care about anything outside of their box. The running backs, they’ll have like 20 opportunities. Wide receivers, it’s on everybody, the coaching, the offensive line, the guy on the other side, the running game. It’s one of those things where you only get a few opportunities, so guys want to be productive and make plays.
“It can come off as selfish, but there are so many other variables that go into a wide receiver being successful. I don’t think there is any wide receiver -- well, there might be a few guys out there who really don’t care -- who would be happy playing in the NFL without catching balls. I want to catch footballs. I want to score touchdowns.”
When Marshall complained about not being targeted early in the season, coach Marc Trestman called him a “palms-up guy” for coming off the field and using body language as if to say, “Why am I not getting the ball?” Trestman, though, said Tuesday that Marshall’s heart is in the right spot.
“He’s been as important to leading this team as anybody,” Trestman said. “He’s been doing it all winter. He brought players in here. Alshon Jeffery, he is playing the way he’s playing because he spent time this offseason with Brandon learning how to treat his body, get himself in shape, how to eat properly. He helped recruit D.J. (Williams), he helped recruit Martellus. I’ve seen nothing but a guy, who when he has been on the field, has worked and has been locked in to try and help this football team. That’s what I’ve seen.”