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 21-14 loss and marked the third consecutive game that the Houston Texans defensive end has recorded a sack and boosted his season total to a career-high four sacks.
A former Seattle Seahawks sixth-round draft pick from Temple traded to the Texans in the Jadeveon Clowney trade, Martin is emerging as a strong contributor in his first season as a full-time starter.
Playing a career-high 58 percent of the snaps, Martin has a career-high five tackles for losses, six quarterback hits and 12 pressures. He also has one safety, recorded 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 as he’s now a full-time defensive end in defensive coordinator Lovie Smith’s 4-3 scheme after playing outside linebacker previously in a 3-4 alignment that included pass coverage responsibilities that weren’t his forte.
“I’d say just staying true, staying true to my techniques and what I’m good at,” Martin said. “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.”
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The defensive end has maintained his speed despite adding some muscle this offseason and now has 13 1/2 career sacks heading into Sunday’s game against the Indianapolis Colts at NRG Stadium.
Martin has one of the fastest get-off moves in the leagues, according to teammates' opinions and metrics tracking NFL players.
Martin 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. That ranked Martin only behind the Los Angeles Chargers' Joey Bosa's 0.51 seconds and the Pittsburgh Steelers' Alex Highsmith's 0.65 seconds.
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.”
Martin is in a healthy competition with defensive end Jon Greenard and other teammates on the defensive line. Greenard leads the Texans with a career-high eight 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.”