Every year there’s at least one unexpected player who bursts onto the scene and makes his presence known. This year that player might be New York Jets wide receiver Jalin Marshall who turned many heads this off-season.
New York Jets Receiver Jalin Marshall Makes His Case
The undrafted rookie out of Ohio State has made the most of his opportunities. Following a strong camp, Marshall flashed at times during his NFL debut. Wide out Kenbrell Thompkins did not play due to a groin injury which moved Marshall to the No. 4 spot. Entering the game with the starters for the four-receiver formations, Marshall finished with one catch for 10 yards. Marshall did miss a couple of tough catches, but his immediate value won’t be as a receiver.
Special teams was an Achilles heel for the New York Jets in 2015, but new special teams coordinator Brant Boyer couldn’t have been more pleased with the results. After wide receiver Jeremy Ross posted a 51-yard return, Marshall out did Ross with an 84-yard return which led to a touchdown several plays later. Marshall’s special teams ability isn’t much of a surprise. At Ohio State, Marshall had 52 punt returns for 662 yards and a touchdown and returned three kicks for 92 yards.
Marshall is currently competing with Ross for a roster spot. While Ross has NFL experience as a return man, Marshall has a higher ceiling, which means the Jets brass must carefully evaluate each receiver. The decision not only affects the 2016 season, but also the next couple of seasons moving forward.
The receiver’s explosiveness, vision and agility to stretch the field poses a threat to opposing defenders. His versatility will also give offensive coordinator Chan Gailey more play-calling options, which adds extra dimensions to the offense. Whether it’s middle screens or bubble screens, Marshall is a dynamic player with the potential to play a role in various packages.
However, there is a reason Marshall wasn’t drafted. Despite his upside, there are weaknesses in his game that must be addressed. In addition to finishing contested throws and securing 50/50 balls, he must also fine-tune his route running. At Ohio State, the scheme helped his game as stacks and bunch sets allowed for easier release. It will be interesting to see how he fares against some of the most physical defenders.
Marshall entered Ohio State as a five-star recruit transitioning from a dual-threat quarterback to wide receiver. There were a few hiccups as injuries slowed his development, but in 2014 Marshall began to shine. Playing as a reserve, he was the team’s second-leading receiver with 38 catches for 499 yards and six touchdowns. In 2015, he posted similar numbers with 36 catches for 477 yards and five touchdowns.
The Jets have a plethora of potential as the wide receiver spot. In addition to Ross, Marshall will also be competing with Charone Peake, a seventh round pick out of Clemson. Peake has a rare combination of size and speed and mainly fell in the draft due to previous knee injuries. The Jets may choose to keep both Peake and Marshall, but given the depth needed in other positions, they hope to stash one of the two on the practice squad. However, if Marshall continues down this path, it will be hard for the Jets to let him go.