Martin Right At Home On The Left

Posted Dec 5, 2012

Dolphins tackle feeling right at home at left tackle and on the left coast.

It's going to feel like old times for Jonathan Martin when the Dolphins take on the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday.

Martin will be back in Northern California where he played his college football, plus he’ll be on the same field as several of his former coaches at Stanford University.

More importantly, though, Martin is expected to start at left tackle — just like he did the previous three years.

Martin, the Dolphins’ second-round pick in the 2012 draft, switched from right to left tackle in the first quarter of last Sunday’s game against New England after Pro Bowl left tackle Jake Long left with a triceps injury that landed him on injured reserve. Now, Martin is slated to make his first NFL start at left tackle against the 49ers.

"It’s all about getting comfortable again, remembering how you felt before, your balance, stuff like that,” Martin said Wednesday after practice. “These couple of days of practice will definitely help.”

Martin’s first assignment at left tackle certainly won’t be an easy one, with the Dolphins going up against the second-ranked defense in the NFL.

If that’s not daunting enough, Martin will find himself lining up quite a bit opposite 49ers outside linebacker Aldon Smith, who leads the league with 17.5 sacks.

“He’s a beast,” Martin said. “Also, 94 (defensive end Justin Smith) next to him is also a heck of a player. That (right) side of the defense is really talented, so it’s going to be a big challenge.”

Martin, though, is confident it’s a challenge he’ll be able to handle.

His teammates share that sentiment, especially after Martin turned in a solid performance against the Patriots in relief of Long.

“He stepped right in,” said left guard Richie Incognito. “We didn’t have any communication issues. We had good communication on the sideline. I think he came in and did a heck of a job.

“He’s got a certain comfort level there. He’s not too far removed from it and he’s feeling it out. I really do think he’s going to do an excellent job for us.”

As a reporter pointed out Wednesday, for Martin going back to left tackle is like riding a bicycle.

In reality, he probably faced a tougher transition in the minicamps and training camp this year when he was asked to move from left to right tackle.

“At first it was a little rough, especially being up against the 1’s and going up against Cam Wake,” Martin said of moving to the right side. “But I caught up fast and I feel I got it right, just like I did the left (side) before. I feel pretty darn comfortable. I played that position for a long time in college, so I feel good.”

Martin’s head coach for his first two years at Stanford was Jim Harbaugh, now the 49ers head coach.

Harbaugh said Wednesday he had no doubt his former player could succeed at left tackle in the NFL on a long-term basis.

“He’s done a fine job coming in as a rookie player,” Harbaugh said. “Very, very astute young man. Very smart. It’s important to him. Blessed with some physical gifts, some strengths. He’s done a great job.”

Martin would love nothing than to show his former college coach first-hand that he’s right in his assessment.

“No one wants to see a Pro Bowler go down like that, especially someone who I’ve learned so much from,” Martin said. “It’s a tough situation, but I’m going to step up to the challenge.

“I think anyone who’s in the NFL who’s an offensive tackle wants to play left. It’s unfortunate the circumstances that led me to get the position, but I’m going to try to make the most of it and prove that I belong there.”

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