HOUSTON — Jacob Martin bolted out of his three-point stance, building momentum and maintaining his body control to sack New York Jets rookie quarterback Zach Wilson. The red-zone sack helped hold the Jets to a field goal during a home loss and marked the third consecutive game that the Texans defensive end had recorded a sack, boosting his season total to a career-high 4 sacks.
Now, the Texans and Martin are interested in continuing their relationship. Following a breakthrough season, there’s mutual interest in Martin returning to the Texans with contract discussions in an active mode, according to league sources not authorized to speak publicly.
Pass rusher Jacob Martin in contract discussions with Houston Texans
A former Seattle Seahawks sixth-round draft pick from Temple shipped to the Texans in the Jadeveon Clowney trade, Martin emerged as a strong contributor in his first season as a full-time starter.
Playing a career-high 61% percent of the snaps, Martin had a career-high 5 tackles for loss, 6 quarterback hits, and 12 pressures. He also recorded a safety against elusive Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray.
Bigger and stronger, especially in his lower body, Martin has made strides as an all-around pass rusher and run stopper. He’s now a full-time defensive end in defensive coordinator Lovie Smith’s 4-3 scheme after previously playing outside linebacker in a 3-4 alignment that included pass coverage responsibilities that weren’t his forte.
Staying true to technique
“I’d say just staying true, staying true to my techniques and what I’m good at,” Martin said during the season. “I’m getting better week in and week out. Trusting the players around me and trusting the players on the team and trusting the coaches out there on the field with me, just try and get better every week. It was a little bit of an adjustment getting back to my natural position: defensive end.
“Obviously, I’m playing a lot more comfortable in that position and in that role now. I do think there’s a giant step I can take as well. This is my first year starting in the league, so there are some growing pains with that. As I get more and more comfortable taking 50, 60 snaps a game, you kind of get into a rhythm. I feel like I’m in that rhythm, and I’m flowing pretty good right now.”
The defensive end has maintained his speed despite adding some muscle this offseason and now has 13.5 career sacks, 13 tackles for loss, and 24 quarterback hits.
Martin has one of the fastest get-off moves in the leagues, according to teammates’ opinions and metrics tracking NFL players.
Martin is a Next Gen statistical star
The Texans pass rusher ranked third in the NFL for the fastest get-off among all defensive players after the first game of the season with an average time of 0.69 seconds, according to Next Gen Stats. That ranked third behind the Los Angeles Chargers’ Joey Bosa (0.51) and the Pittsburgh Steelers’ Alex Highsmith (0.65).
Martin has upgraded his pass-rushing techniques and strategy.
“I would say just really understanding the relationship between your rush angles and dictating how you want that tackle to set, and showing different things that you may not do to get them guessing to go back to what you’re good at,” Martin said. “I’m just sprinkling in those changeups to kind of abuse situations in terms of third-and-longs and obviously passing downs, and things like that.”
Race to the quarterback
Martin was in a healthy competition with defensive end Jonathan Greenard and other teammates on the defensive line. Greenard led the Texans with a career-high 8 sacks. But Martin has complemented his power game and growing repertoire of moves with his own brand of quickness and finishing power.
“For sure, for sure, it’s always been a race to the quarterback,” Martin said. “We understand that the room is very competitive, and it’s been competitive since day one when they put this room together. Every opportunity to go out there and rush, you’re trying to win. It’s an obvious race, especially when you have a guy like Jonathan Greenard on the other side causing havoc himself.”