A week into Seattle Seahawks training camp, the two couldn't connect on a sideline fade when Marshall, lined up outside to the right, released off the line of scrimmage in a way that Wilson wasn't expecting. They talked it over between plays, figured things out and then hooked up for a touchdown on a similar play later in practice.
When a wide receiver and a quarterback talk about getting on the same page, this is exactly what they mean.
"When you have guys that have played a lot of ball, seen a lot of ball, and have high football IQ," Marshall said, "it's easier to get on the same page than guys that really haven't had that experience, so I think that we'll be all right."
That Wilson and Marshall have increasingly clicked in the two weeks since then is one reason to be encouraged about the veteran receiver's chances of making the Seahawks' roster -- and perhaps even making a difference in their passing game.
Neither was at all a given when the Seahawks signed the six-time Pro Bowler in May to a one-year contract that included only $90,000 guaranteed. The fact that the 34-year-old Marshall, by his own admission, didn't have many other options at the time was a reflection of his age and his iffy health coming off surgeries on an ankle and toe.
It looked even iffier when he missed Seattle's three-day minicamp because of a hamstring injury. But after a slow start to training camp, Marshall's workload has increased to the point that he's regularly taking part in team drills. And with No. 1 receiver Doug Baldwin sidelined by a knee injury that could keep him out all preseason, Marshall has frequently been working with Wilson and the first-team offense along with Tyler Lockett and Jaron Brown.
In another positive sign of Marshall's progress, he started and played seven snaps in the team's preseason opener.
"He continues to be closer to full-go, cut-it-loose," coach Pete Carroll said Sunday. "He can play, but we really haven't let him go upfield, run downfield, top speed and all that stuff yet. We restricted him some and he's been told to be restricted a little bit when he plays just to make sure that we don't have any setbacks. Today was his most active day and we're going to continue to extend it from there. So we're looking very good."
Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said veteran wide receiver Brandon Marshall, who's coming
Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said veteran wide receiver Brandon Marshall, who's coming off toe and ankle surgeries as well as a hamstring injury, had his most active day of practice today. That included working with the No. 1 offense in team periods. Marshall's health is coming along as is his rapport with Russell Wilson. "It's developing," Carroll said. "They're working hard at it." Video by Brady Henderson
You wouldn't know that Marshall still isn't at full speed based on the some of the plays he's made in camp. At one point early in his return to practice, Carroll estimated that he had scored three or four touchdowns on only seven balls thrown his way. One of his more impressive catches came Sunday, when Wilson lobbed a throw over a defender down the sideline and Marshall hauled it in with only his left hand.
"Just to see him make plays and the communication, he loves the game, the passion that he has, the thoughts, the ideas," Wilson said. "He loves the end zone, he loves knowing how to make plays, and he's doing that."
Earlier in that practice, the two had split off to the empty end of the field to get a few throws in.
"It's developing," Carroll said of their connection. "They're working hard at it. ... Both guys understand that has to take place and they're hanging together, they're working together, they're getting extra reps together. I don't know if you were just watching the team practice there -- we had them down there for a little bit just to keep working on things. So it seems that the process is underway."
And that process goes beyond the field.
"In the meetings, when we're watching film, you see [Marshall] kind of talking and saying, 'Hey, what are you thinking here?' or 'What would you do here? What could I possibly give you here?'" offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer said. "They're kind of always together. Obviously, great respect for one another and trying to get the same language down because it's such an intricacy of those guys. We call it a me-to-you factor. But they're learning each other, body language -- 'Hey, I'm on top. Throw it over the top or behind him.'
"Really, it's just them talking football 24/7."
It is still no sure thing by any means that Marshall will make the team, not with a handful of young receivers fighting for what could be as few as two or three spots behind Baldwin, Lockett and Brown. It may work against him that his status as a vested veteran means his $1.015 million base salary would become guaranteed if he's on the roster Week 1. While that could end up being a massive bargain if he produces, teams are generally wary of being financially committed to older players.
But the number of passes that Marshall has been catching from Wilson of late has made it easier than before to imagine him catching on with Seattle.
"One of the toughest guys to defend in the National Football League for years and years," Wilson said. "I think he still has it."