Oct 6, 2013; Green Bay, WI, USA; Detroit Lions punter Sam Martin (6) punts the ball as Green Bay Packers wide receiver Jarrett Boykin (11) defends in the second quarter at Lambeau Field. Mandatory Credit: Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports
This is easy. Martin handles punts and kickoffs, right?
In 2012, Nick Harris averaged 41.5 yards per punt on the season, and his highest single-game average for 49.5 yards (Week 9 at Jacksonville). His longest punt of the season was 58 yards. In 2013, Martin is averaging 48.5 yards per punt, and has posted single-game averages of over 50 yards in five of his eight games. Martin’s longest punt so far this season is 72 yards, and his shortest single-game long is 52 yards.
In 2012, Jason Hanson averaged a distance of 62.8 yards on his kickoffs, resulting in 30 touchbacks. In 2013, Martin is averaging 70.3 yards on his kickoffs, resulting in 26 touchbacks (which means he’s on pace for 52 on the season). Hanson had 59.8 percent of his kickoffs returned, Martin has 40 percent of his brought out.
Yes, he is earning the fifth-round draft pick he cost.
Stats and averages are great, but Martin has had a couple of major errors so far this season. In the Lions’ first offensive drive of the season against Minnesota, he botched the hold on a field goal try. On the next play, Adrian Peterson ran 82 yards for a touchdown. That turned out to be irrelevant, as the Lions won handily, but the 10-point turnaround was devastating at the time, and a poor start to a young career.
Then, against Cincinnati, his shanked punt late gave the Bengals the field position they needed to kick a game-winning field goal.
Of course, that’s two bad moments from a rookie who is handling kickoffs, punts, and field goal holds. Two big mistakes from a rookie who otherwise is a huge weapon in the game of field position is not bad at all.
Any time a kicking specialist gets drafted, the expectations immediately shoot upward. Martin is still exceeding them. He was expected to be a very good punter. He has become one of the league’s best punters, as well as one of the league’s better kickoff men. He was never even expected to cover that role (though maybe it was the front office’s plan all along), so he’s really exceeding expectations just by default.
Sam Martin was a facepalm selection when he was announced back in April, but it looks like the Lions knew exactly what they were doing. The Lions haven’t had someone capable of flipping field position like Martin in a long time. Jim Arnold comes to mind. Aside from a couple of hiccups, he has been fantastic.