EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The Giants spent $5 million guaranteed for this season on Brandon Marshall, and they spent the offseason bragging about what a great addition he is going to be.
Now they have to get their money's worth. They have to make him a part of their offense.
And there's just no excuse to ignore him like they did on Sunday night.
The Giants can throw out all the reasons they want -- from the time of possession, to Eli Manning's progression, to simple missed opportunities -- but one of the biggest issues from the Giants' 19-3 loss on Opening Night in Dallas was the virtual non-existence of their No. 2 receiver. With Odell Beckham, Jr. out, it figured the Giants would lean heavily on their new weapon, who is also their biggest (6-5, 232) and most accomplished receiver.
Instead, it was like Marshall just wasn't there.
That makes no sense, no matter what the Giants say. It's a failure of play-calling, of game-planning, and on the part of the quarterback. And whether Beckham is there or not in the Giants' home opener on Monday night, that absolutely has to change.
"I was involved in the offense," Marshall said on Thursday. "I just didn't get opportunities to get touches, but I was able to impact the game in several ways."
That may be true, but Marshall's primary responsibility is to catch the football and help move the Giants offense. The Giants spent the summer touting Marshall, what he could do for Manning, and how he could open up the offense in ways that Victor Cruz -- the man Marshall ostensibly replaced -- could not. With Beckham out, the Giants even had an opportunity to feature Marshall a little more than they had hoped.
But a player can't be featured if the quarterback doesn't look his way, which is what happened for most of the game. Sure, Marshall got a little extra attention from the defense, but it's not like he was double or triple-teamed all game. And at some point, someone needed to realize that he's a big man who caught 941 passes for 12,061 yards in his first 11 NFL seasons.
He can catch. He can play. He can get open.
So just throw him the damn ball.
"We had a couple opportunities to get him the ball," Manning explained on Wednesday. "Just couldn't connect on a couple of those plays."
That's true, but barely. Marshall, who had one 10-yard catch on the final play of the game, was only targeted four times. The first time came with 1:32 left in the first half. Granted the Giants didn't have the ball a lot in the first half, but the first look towards Marshall still came on their 13th pass attempt and 18th play. Yes, they misfired on one deep try to him in the second half. And yes, there was one pass that he arguably dropped.
But what about the five-play red zone sequence that led to the Giants' field goal at the start of the third quarter. They finally get their 6-5 receiver, bill him as a red zone threat, and then don't even look his way.
Yeah, yeah, yeah … matchups, progressions, go where the offense takes you. Why not just put the ball in the air and let him try to bring it down?
"There may have been times where you're trying to get him the ball, but couldn't get it to him for one reason or another," Ben McAdoo said. "It could've been where he was lined up in the progression, based on the coverage we were seeing. It's not just one factor. You can't just point to one thing. It was a variety of things."
Yes, and that's just white noise obscuring the reality that the Giants failed to use a player who could've helped them. The reasons why don't really matter -- not even the shoulder injury that limited him over the final weeks of summer and kept him from catching a single preseason pass from Manning. All that's important is that without Beckham in the lineup, the Giants had a guy capable of being their No. 1 receiver, with a proven track record, to whom they paid a lot of money.
Whether Beckham plays on Monday or not, if the Giants want to generate any sustained offense this season, they can't afford to ignore Marshall again. He can't just impact the offense in other ways. He has to be a bigger target in the passing game. And surely he sees that too, right?
"It's Week 1," Marshall said. "Ask me that in Week 10 or Week 12. It's Week 1. We're alright."