Martin Doing All Right On Left Side

Posted Aug 22, 2013

Dolphins tackle having strong preseason.

Jonathan Martin celebrated his 24th birthday on Monday, and gave himself a little treat.

“I got a nice nap and got some sushi,” Martin said. “That was enough excitement for me for a camp workday.”

The Dolphins actually were off on Monday, but Martin has been in full-out work mode since players reported to camp on July 20. This is his second season in the NFL, his first as the Dolphins’ full-time starting left tackle, and he’s leaving nothing to chance.

The position he plays is perhaps the most important on the offensive line, and Martin is intelligent and mature enough to understand the magnitude of his task. Martin also is aware of the added pressure of following at the position a player with an impressive resume.

If the preseason is any indication, Martin is up to the challenge.

The website breaks down and analyzes, as per its motto, “every game, every player, every play” and assigns grades. Through the first three weeks of the preseason, has ranked 185 offensive tackles based on their performance.

Jonathan Martin comes in at No. 2 on the list, behind only New Orleans right tackle Bryce Harris, who is listed third on the Saints’ unofficial depth chart and might not even make the 53-man roster.

At left tackle, Martin is right at the top.

“I think he’s doing a phenomenal job,” said center Mike Pouncey. “He’s done well the whole preseason. He came in, put on weight this whole offseason, he’s been doing a great job and we’re proud of him.”

Martin’s coaches, not surprisingly, are quick to point out that the second-year player remains a work in progress, both from a technical and consistency aspect.

But there is no denying the progress Martin has made since he started the last four games of the 2012 regular season after four-time Pro Bowl selection Jake Long was put on injured reserve.

“He’s silently gotten better and better each and every day,” said offensive coordinator Mike Sherman. “He still has a long way to go as far as a left tackle in this league. When I say a long way to go, to be a finished product, I don’t know if a young tackle like him is going to be that until four or five years into the league.

“He’s further ahead than I probably would expect him to be at this time, but he’s still a work in progress. He’s going to have some ups and downs just like any player this year. He’s going to have some matchup guys that he matches up well against; other guys are going to be a big challenge. He’ll respond to those challenges. I think he’s done a good job in practice responding to them. He faces some pretty good rushers in practice every single day, so that opportunity certainly makes him better.”

Even though it’s still too early to make any definitive proclamations, Martin has done his part so far to validate the direction the Dolphins chose at offensive tackle in the offseason.

After Long left for St. Louis via free agency, there was a lot of speculation as to who would fill the void at left tackle. The answer came when the Dolphins signed veteran, and former Pro Bowl selection, Tyson Clabo to play right tackle.

That gave the left tackle spot to Martin, who had played that position at Stanford before starting at right tackle for the first 12 games of his NFL career last year.

For Martin, the signing of Clabo was a vote of confidence he could handle the left tackle job on a full-time basis.

“Of course it feels good that the owner, GM, the head coach all have confidence in you,” Martin said early in training camp. “I’m going to try to prove that they made a good choice in letting me play left tackle.”

To prepare for his new role, Martin worked on getting stronger in the offseason, adding 15 pounds with some extra lifting. He also made sure to revisit what he did at left tackle in those last four games of 2012.

“I watched all the games a bunch of times,” Martin said. “I watched all my mistakes. That’s how you get better. I definitely got in the tape during the offseason. Of course, you watch your mistakes, that’s how you learn. That’s definitely something that I paid more attention to, what I did wrong (rather) than what I did right.

“I think I played solid at times and not so good at other times, so it’s really all about being consistent.”

A quiet, humble sort, Martin said he would have been fine with whatever position the Dolphins asked him to play this season, but he also admitted he was happy with the way things worked out.

He’s also generally happy with his progress, although he takes nothing for granted — and that includes a starting role that seems all but cemented.

“I think it’s been incremental progress,” Martin said. “Just trying to get better every day at this point. There’s been some good things, some things to improve on. We’re just trying to get a little continuity as an offensive line; we need to keep working on that.

“Just working hard, giving them my best every day. That’s been my mind-set. I know I’m still competing for this spot. I’ve been trying to keep myself motivated in that way and I think I’ve been successful so far.”

Make no mistake, Martin clearly is in the spotlight this season. Has been since the start of camp. Because of the position he plays. Because of the player he replaced.

That’s all irrelevant to Martin. He’s too busy doing his job.

“You can’t let negative or positive criticism or praise get to you,” he says. “You just try to stay focused and stay the same guy every day, focus on the task at hand and get ready for Cleveland coming up in a couple of weeks.”
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