Finally the long hot summer is beginning to end.
The boys of summer will soon give way to the warriors of winter. The crack of the bat will be replaced by the crash of body armor against body armor.
Denver fans have been waiting since January for some glimpse of the post-Shanahan era and what it really means. The first big battle won’t be Denver versus some other team though.
An era has changed; there is a new attitude in Denver. One clash remains, the last vestige of the excesses that doomed Mike Shanahan still remains to be washed away. The big pre-season battle to watch will be Royal versus Marshall.
Marshall was the coddled star, whose poor off-field decisions were tolerated because on the field he could make great plays. The last year of Shanahan’s tenure was marked by a reliance on two young talents with great potential, but great flaws.
While Marshall enters his third season Royal comes in as a second year player who has quietly gone about his business well enough to have an excellent rookie campaign. The new attitude in Denver is hard working, no fuss type players.
Over the last couple of years McDaniels’ offense has featured precise disciplined routes run by receivers like Moss and Welker with the quarterback throwing to spots. A player like Royal fits that concept like a glove, but Marshall has never been a disciplined route runner.
Marshall and Cutler worked well together, with Cutler buying time with his feet while Marshall used his size to ward off smaller defenders. Cutler was looking for him anyway so it didn’t really matter if Marshall was in exactly the right place.
Marshall caught 57 percent of the passes thrown to him, Royal caught 71 percent.
There will be a battle.
Marshall has to prove to the league that it is worth putting up with his poor off-field decisions. A bad season by Marshall could mean little to no interest in him as a free agent.
This battle is a microcosm of the Denver Bronco offseason.
Can Marshall show the kind of discipline the new system will require? He will get his chances but if he can’t stay with Royal in the preseason he may end up somewhere else before his trading value drops too far.