While on the practice squad for the first 12 weeks of his NFL career, running back Byron Marshall arrived to the NovaCare Complex every day with one simple goal in mind.
“My whole mindset, I just want to go in there and I just want to embarrass the defense every day,” Marshall said Wednesday.
“That’s my mindset, you know what I’m saying? We have a really good defense, so I feel like I can get a whole lot better and get them a whole lot better at the same time. So I just try to go out there and make as many plays as I can.”
And eventually the Eagles took notice.
Thanks to Wendell Smallwood’s season-ending knee injury and Darren Sproles’ concussion, the Eagles signed Marshall to the active roster on Tuesday. (The Eagles reportedly lost out on a waiver claim for former Cowboys RB Darius Jackson, who was claimed Wednesday by the Browns.)
Marshall isn’t sure how much — if at all — he’ll play this weekend in Baltimore, but the 22-year-old undrafted rookie from Oregon says he’ll be ready.
“Byron — I'm not sure what action he'll see — but I can just tell you, watching scout team this whole year,” offensive coordinator Frank Reich said, “probably if you took the 10 most eye-popping ‘wow’ plays on the field this year, Byron might have three or four of them, where he's running scout team and he runs a route or he makes a cut against our defense that [you] just [go], ‘Whoa!’ We'll look at each other and say, ‘That was legit.’ So, he's got some explosiveness and elusiveness to him.”
Because Marshall has been working with the scout team all season, he’s been going against the Eagles’ first-string defense. He said his goal was to make at least one play every day.
Like Paul Turner, who spent most of his season on the practice squad, Marshall thinks his time going against the first-team defense has helped him immensely. And apparently, he helped the defense, too.
“He gives us a great look every week, especially myself and Rodney (McLeod), being able to come out of the post and work on our open-field tackling,” safety Malcolm Jenkins said. “He’s a tough guy to get down in the open field. I know he’s been huge with giving me and Rodney a great look, so I don’t expect him to do anything other than have some success.”
In the preseason, Marshall had 34 carries for 86 yards but also caught eight passes for 60 yards. At Oregon, Marshall picked up 3,170 total yards (1,877 rushing, 1,293 receiving) during his 42-game career with the Ducks.
He was the first player in Pac-12 history to accumulate 1,000-plus rushing and 1,000-plus receiving yards in his career.
So what does Marshall bring to the Eagles?
“I feel like I’m a little more herky-jerky than the other running backs,” he said. “I make people miss. Make them miss and try to use some power with how I run. I’m excited to see how it goes on Sunday.”
Marshall’s 2015 season at Oregon ended in September with an ankle injury, so he thinks the time on the practice squad has helped him get some of that time back and go against a live defense.
He hasn’t played in a game since the preseason — this is “by far” the longest he’s gone without a game — and hasn’t played in a game that counted since Sept. 26, 2015.
“But it’s been worth it,” Marshall said about his time on the practice squad. “I don’t think I was ready at the start of the season, as much as I wanted to be. ... I feel like being on the practice squad this long definitely helped and allowed me to get a lot more developed and more comfortable.”