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Saturday, October 2, 2010
Brandon Marshall an uncaged force

By Tim Graham

Brandon Marshall
Brandon "The Beast" Marshall gets so intense before games, coordinator Dan Henning is working with him to dial it back so he conserves evergy.
Before a game, Miami Dolphins receiver Brandon Marshall becomes an animal.

Marshall loves being known as "The Beast," a persona developed over three straight seasons of 100-plus catches. He has dubbed the section that overlooks the players' tunnel in Sun Life Stadium's west end zone "Beast Alley" and expends considerable energy exhorting fans to reach full froth with him.

"He's a high-anxiety, high-energy guy," Dolphins offensive coordinator Dan Henning said. "You ought to see him before the game. He's like a caged tiger. I mean, literally like a caged tiger."

Rather than throw raw meat at Marshall, the Dolphins have been flinging tanned cowhide in his direction. At any point from opening kickoff until the game clock expires, he's hungry.

In one of the NFL's bigger offseason moves, the Dolphins acquired Marshall to unlock all sorts of new offensive possibilities.

After a relatively tame first two games, the Dolphins finally unleashed their manimal last week, and there's no reason to think he'll be subdued Monday night against the New England Patriots at Sun Life Stadium (ESPN, 8:30 p.m. ET).

"The guy is a monster," Buffalo Bills cornerback Terrence McGee said before he faced Marshall on opening day. "He's one of the best receivers in the league, so you've definitely got to expect they're going to throw him the ball. That's what they brought him there for."

Marshall showed in Week 3 why the Dolphins traded a pair of second-round draft choices to the Denver Broncos and then signed him to a beastly four-year, $47.5 million extension.

With quarterback Chad Henne throwing for a career-high 363 yards, Marshall had 10 catches for 166 yards and his first Dolphins touchdown in a home loss to the New York Jets. The yardage tied for the second most of Marshall's career.

Marshall also ran twice for 3 yards and made his first Wildcat cameos. Dolphins running back Ronnie Brown tried to throw deep to him once.

"He's definitely a go-to player for them," Patriots coach Bill Belichick said of the 6-foot-4, 230-pound Marshall. "They get the ball to him in a lot of different situations.

"He's big. He's like a tight end. He's huge for a receiver. He can go up and get the ball. He's a strong runner with the ball in his hands and good after the catch. He's got good speed, good quickness, good receiving skills. He's a tough guy to match up against."

The best way to negate The Beast might be when he tuckers himself out.

One of the hot topics in South Florida the past week was Marshall's energy level against the Jets in the sweltering heat. Henning revealed Marshall was so drained in the first half Sunday night that he went to the locker room early to receive intravenous fluids.

NFL Network analysts Sterling Sharpe, Solomon Wilcots and Mike Mayock faulted Marshall's lack of effort on the final set of downs with the Dolphins desperate for a touchdown. Marshall got them to the Jets' 11-yard line with a 30-yard catch and run but then disappeared over the next four downs.

"He's on the field, and he's wound up really tight before the game," Henning said. "So we're working on that, to try to get him to be patient and utilize all that energy in the game and not expend it too soon."

Said Marshall: "I'm just so passionate, and I guess when we get on that football field a lot of emotions come out, and I just turn into a different person. I think that's what helps me be successful in my young career."

It might be tough to get Marshall settled down for the Patriots because their secondary likely is causing him to drool.

Brandon Marshall
Brandon Marshall had eight catches, including two for touchdowns, in the Broncos' 20-17 win over the Patriots last season.
Conditions are right for Marshall and Henne to have another gigantic game.

For the Denver Broncos last year, Marshall had eight receptions for 64 yards and both touchdowns in a 20-17 overtime victory over the Patriots, whose secondary was more stable then compared to now.

The Patriots' pass defense has been lenient so far and chaotic in terms of personnel. Veteran cornerback Leigh Bodden and safety Brandon McGowan were placed on injured reserve, ending their seasons before they began. Pro Bowl safety Brandon Meriweather lost his starting job in Week 2. Cornerback Darius Butler lost his last week.

Belichick said limiting Marshall's infamous yards after the catch is "a top priority."

The Patriots' defense has allowed an NFL-high seven touchdown passes. It has surrendered at least two in each game. Quarterbacks have completed 69.4 percent of their attempts, are averaging 260.3 yards and have a 101.3 passer rating against New England.

You can expect Marshall's appetite to be voracious, whether it's Henne throwing the ball or even Brown.

"Oh, absolutely," Marshall said. "I want the ball every play. What receiver doesn't?"