When Brandon Marshall went to the Miami Dolphins in 2010, great things were expected of the star wide receiver. Though his initial season could have been better, his impact is going to be far greater in 2011. The new structure of the Miami Dolphins will force Marshall to become a top-five receiver or bust.
Coming off a tumultuous but very successful tenure with the Denver Broncos, he was expected to help change the culture of the team. More than that, it was supposed to be a fresh start for Marshall, who was plagued by controversy while playing for the Denver Broncos.
His outspoken nature caused character purist Josh McDaniels to trade him away, making him seem like a castoff rather than a superstar.His arrival was heralded as a new era for Miami; he was going to make make the Miami Dolphins a complete club offensively. With Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams handling the ground game, Marshall was going to make a huge splash in the AFC East.
Thanks to the disappointing play of Chad Henne, those dreams were never realized. Brandon Marshall managed to eke out a 1,000-yard season against all odds, but it was an underwhelming performance compared to what many fans and experts assumed he would pull off.
This season, his presence will mean more to the Miami Dolphins than ever. The culture of the team has indeed changed, but not at all in the way that was intended.
The organization has now lost starting halfback and wildcat trigger man Ronnie Brown, and Ricky Williams' future with the team is uncertain. With only second-round pick Daniel Thomas and the newly acquired Reggie Bush to handle the running game, the Dolphins will have no choice but to transition into a more pass-oriented offense. Reggie Bush is undersized and not an every-down back, and Daniel Thomas is unproven.
Marshall's impact will be huge in this new era. Since fans are calling for Henne's head, he is unlikely to be the quarterback when the start of the season rolls around. The Dolphins have acquired perennial backup Matt Moore, who has performed passably when called upon before.
Moore is only a short-term solution of course, but in the meantime he will have to adjust and learn the system. There is nothing better for a quarterback in a new situation than to have a top-flight physically dominant receiver. Thanks to Marshall, Moore will be eased into the new system much more fluidly than he would without him. Expect Moore and Marshall to have an excellent rapport throughout the 2011 season.
Marshall will also be a great help to Reggie Bush during his Dolphins debut. Bush has always been more of a pass-catching receiver than a true runner, and it has even been suggested in past seasons that he become a permanent wide receiver. Either way, if they plan to use Bush in the running game, he will only be helped by the presence of Marshall. Brandon Marshall demands double coverage, so the speedy Bush will be able to make plays with efficiency out of the backfield.
Most importantly, Marshall now becomes the centerpiece of the Miami offense. Where he used to take a backseat to Ronnie Brown, Ricky Williams and the wildcat formation, he now becomes the main offensive threat on a team that is desperate for a new identity. If Marshall performs, he will become the face of the revitalized Dolphins offense.
It goes without saying that if Reggie Bush benefits in his pass catching, so will Davonne Bess and Anthony Fasano. In the new pass-happy system, the benefits of his receiving ability will be more important than ever.
This could be a career year for the 6'3'' receiver, maybe not in numbers, but definitely in level of impact. Look for Brandon Marshall to re-emerge as a superstar receiver in 2011.