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Jacob Martin brings the NY Jets defense exactly what it needed

Jacob Martin, New York Jets, Stats, Film, Breakdown
Jacob Martin, New York Jets, Getty Images

Who exactly is New York Jets EDGE Jacob Martin?

Die-hard New York Jets fans were familiar with most of the team’s biggest outside signings in free agency. But the one signing that made the majority of fans exclaim “Who?” was former Houston Texans edge rusher Jacob Martin.

The brother of former Jets defender Josh Martin, Jacob joined the Jets on a three-year, $13.5 million deal with $6 million guaranteed.

What are the Jets getting in the 26-year-old? Let’s dig into Martin’s strengths, weaknesses, and overall player profile.

Jacob Martin adds much-needed explosiveness to the Jets’ defense

The main goal for the defensive linemen in Robert Saleh and Jeff Ulbrich‘s Jets defense is simple: attack.

In their 4-3 defensive front, Saleh and Ulbrich want to build an aggressive and athletic defensive line that creates pressure on its own without the help of blitz calls. Accomplishing that feat allows the defense to deploy more defenders in coverage.

A dominant four-man rush is what makes this scheme tick. New York seemed to have one in the works entering 2021, but unfortunately, the defensive line was bitten by the injury bug, ruining the four-man rush and thus the entire defense.

Star pass-rusher Carl Lawson missed the entire season, as did reliable veteran Vinny Curry. Bryce Huff, a young situational pass-rusher with intriguing burst and bend, missed eight games.

With three of their projected top-four edge rushers playing nine of a possible 51 games, the Jets’ defensive line lacked the explosiveness that it needed to stay afloat. Fill-ins like Shaq Lawson, Ronald Blair, Tim Ward, and Kyle Phillips looked sluggish compared to their superiors and did little in the passing game as the Jets’ defense tumbled to a No. 32 ranking in points and yards allowed.

The Jets need as many athletic pass-rushers on their depth chart as they can get. It’s crucial to have players who can adequately replace Lawson’s explosion if he goes down again. Not to mention, the Jets love to run a heavy defensive line rotation to keep everyone fresh, so even when Lawson is healthy, they need guys who can produce in a situational role.

Enter Martin.

The 6-foot-2, 242-pound Martin is a speedy pass-rusher who brings more of the juice that the Jets’ defensive line depth chart was lacking last season. According to NFL Next Gen Stats, Martin had an average get-off time of 0.86 seconds in 2021, which ranked 24th among 125 qualified pass-rushers.

Martin ran a 4.59 in the forty-yard dash at his Temple pro day. That mark would have ranked at the 92nd percentile all-time among edge rushers at the combine. He even ran a 6.90 in the three-cone, which also would have been good enough for the 92nd percentile among edge rushers.

With Martin aboard, the Jets now have a third athletic pass-rusher alongside Lawson and Huff. The more speed, the merrier for this aggressive Jets defensive line.

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Jacob Martin is an effective pass-rusher, especially in smaller dosages

Okay, so Martin is athletic. But does he use his tools to rush the passer effectively?

Yes, he does.

Martin has 106 total pressures on 943 career pass-rush snaps. That gives him a pressure rate of 11.2%, which is above-average for his position. For reference, the 2021 league average for edge rushers was 10.2%.

Martin was especially good when playing a backup role over his first three seasons – which is what the Jets will be asking him to do.

From 2018-20, Martin played in 44 games but started only one of those. Over just 820 defensive snaps across that span, he collected 68 total pressures, 9.5 sacks, 18 quarterback hits, four forced fumbles, and three fumble recoveries.

That’s incredible efficiency. Imagine if a player put up all of those numbers in one season. That’s what 820 snaps equates to. The top-32 edge rushers who played the most snaps in 2021 combined to play an average of 821 snaps. So, Martin was playing like a true 9.5-sack guy.

If Martin continues performing at that level in his situational role for New York, the Jets will have themselves a massive steal.

Martin became a full-time starter for the Texans in 2021, starting 14 of his 17 games and playing a career-high 700 snaps (325 more than his previous career-high). While he wasn’t quite able to extrapolate the per-snap efficiency he showed over his first three years, he still put up respectable totals of 38 pressures, four sacks, six quarterback hits, three pass deflections, and two forced fumbles.

If that stat-line is what your backup edge rusher gives you when called upon to start, that is plenty good. Consider that last year, New York’s primary replacement for Carl Lawson, the unrelated Shaq Lawson, put up 17 total pressures, one sack, five quarterback hits, and no forced fumbles in 534 snaps.

Martin has been consistent, producing no fewer than three sacks and no more than four sacks in any of his four seasons. He brings a high floor to the table, which is a great trait to have in a backup/situational player.

One more note on Martin’s pass-rushing: he’s got a penchant for forcing fumbles. Martin has six forced fumbles and 64 total tackles in his career, meaning he has forced a fumble on 9.4% of his career tackles. That rate ranks fourth-best among edge rushers with at least 50 tackles since 2018:

  1. Dee Ford: 13.0% (10 FF / 77 tackles)
  2. Randy Gregory: 12.3% (8 FF / 65 tackles)
  3. Chandler Jones: 11.0% (17 FF / 154 tackles)
  4. Jacob Martin: 9.4% (6 FF / 64 tackles)
  5. T.J. Watt: 8.8% (21 FF / 240 tackles)
  6. Khalil Mack: 8.6% (14 FF / 163 tackles)
  7. Chase Young: 8.6% (6 FF / 70 tackles)
  8. Yannick Ngakoue: 8.3% (10 FF / 120 tackles)
  9. Robert Quinn: 7.8% (11 FF / 141 tackles)
  10. J.J. Watt: 7.2% (11 FF / 153 tackles)

Jacob Martin’s run defense is his main question mark

If Martin is so solid as a pass-rusher, why isn’t he playing more?

The answer: his run defense.

Martin’s teams were petrified of putting him on the field in rushing situations over his first three seasons. From 2018-20, he played 79.4% of his snaps against the pass and 20.6% of his snaps against the run, which is an absurdly stark split. In 44 games, he played 651 snaps against the pass (14.8 per game) compared to just 169 snaps against the run (3.8 per game).

As part of the full-time starting role that he played in 2021, Martin was finally trusted to face the run as 309 of his 700 snaps came on run plays (44.1%). We saw why he wasn’t playing against the run before. Martin picked up only 10 run-stops across his 309 run-defense snaps, giving him a run-stop rate of 3.2% that ranked 76th out of 81 qualified edge rushers.

How is Jacob Martin used?

After being drafted by the Seattle Seahawks in the sixth round of the 2018 draft, Martin came into the league as a 4-3 defensive end. He played the majority of his rookie-year snaps on the edge with his hand in the dirt, although he stood up and played outside linebacker occasionally.

Seattle traded Martin to Houston as part of the Jadeveon Clowney deal in 2019. Martin moved to 3-4 outside linebacker in Houston’s defense. He began splitting his time fairly evenly between playing with his hand in the dirt and standing up.

Martin’s role changed again in 2020 as he leaned heavier toward playing stand-up outside linebacker and also started playing some snaps off the ball. The Texans even asked him to drop into coverage on 75 snaps that year, making up 27.1% of his passing-game snaps.

Those plans were scrapped in 2021 as the Texans switched to a 4-3 scheme under defensive coordinator Lovie Smith, who moved Martin back to defensive end full-time. Martin did not play a single snap in coverage and lined up as a hand-in-the-dirt end for the vast majority of his snaps, rarely standing up.

Martin has experience on both sides of the defensive line. He rotated between the left and right sides in each of his four seasons and was never tethered to one side.

While Martin tends to play each side of the line, he’s fared better on the left side. Martin has a career pressure rate of 13.8% on the left side and 9.5% on the right side.

In terms of PFF’s pass-rush grade, Martin’s two most effective seasons were the two that he spent in a 4-3 scheme: his 2018 rookie year with Seattle (72.5 grade, 25th out of 116 qualified EDGE) and his 2021 season with Houston (69.9 grade, 45th of 128 qualified EDGE). That makes him a great fit for the Jets’ defense.

Jacob Martin is just what the Jets needed for their defensive line rotation

The Jets still should aim to add another starting edge rusher opposite Carl Lawson. Martin does not change that. New York’s goal should be to build a beastly front-four featuring Lawson, a new edge rusher (possibly acquired in the draft), and the duo of Quinnen Williams and John Franklin-Myers on the inside.

But it was crucial for the Jets to add quality depth at this position. They’re relying heavily on an injury-prone player in Lawson and love to rotate their defensive linemen anyway.

In Martin, the Jets got a perfect fit for what they needed. He is an explosive athlete who fits their attacking 4-3 scheme, has proven he can provide highly efficient production in a limited role, and is capable of filling in respectably as a starter if needed.

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2 years ago

I don’t expect much from him. There is such a thing as too many snaps. There are players who you cannot project stats over a long period of time becuase the fact is the more they play, the more they “regress to the norm.” This is a situational player at best and even then I wonder how much he will really bring to the table. I’m sorry but a 6’2″ 242lb defensive end on a team that gets gashed on defense by other team’s run game doesn’t excite me, especially with a team like NE right in the division. This team NEEDS a real 4-3 DE. These small guys that just rush the passer can’t find the ball, get pushed around and are out of the play on swing passes and screens. I’m not saying this is a bad signing since they do need bodies but I’ll be shocked if he makes more than a few impact playes this year. As much as I hope not, I agree with hh11212, we will see JFM on the outside more than we would like.

2 years ago

I love the article Nania. However, I think JFM will play more on the outside then you think specifically early downs. JFM will likely be our starting edge even we if draft a rookie as he is our most effective edge against the run. Unless we get a Clowney type player I don’t see JFM slotting inside on a regular basis.

2 years ago
Reply to  Michael Nania

Great points! I definitely think extending JFM looks even better in hindsight. His scheme versatility allows you to cut Rankins this year or Lawson next year if needed and still have a reasonable baseline of performance you can expect at DT or DE. I think JD is looking for a 3 down DE.

However, Jacob Martin may be our backup version of Dee Ford if we don’t acquire a vet or if we don’t have the Edge on the board we want in round 1. By any measure we have solid flexibility if our main guys are reasonably healthy this season on the D Line to be good. Hopefully we finally get a little luck with injuries.

2 years ago
Reply to  Michael Nania

Martin seems similar in profile to Bryce Huff. That’s not necessarily a bad thing for the type of rotational playing Saleh seems to prefer. There’s some sacrificing of run defense in this approach, but the pass rush potential is above average (absent crazy injuries). I hope JD goes repetitive on the DLine in the draft. An Edge in the top 10 and again in the second round, as well as an IDL in the 2nd round. My preferences are players like Jermaine Johnson, Trayvon Walker, Cameron Thomas, Boye Mafe, Perrion Winfrey, Travis Jones and Davonte Wyatt. Any 3 of those with 2 being Edges works for me. The days of Ward and Zuniga playing any meaningful snaps should be over. Also, thankfully the other Lawson is off to Buffalo. What a waste.

2 years ago
Reply to  Michael Nania

Here’s an interesting thought – at 4 Seattle wants a trade up for a QB. Jets get Metcalf and moves back to 9. Jets select an Edge and Jordan Davis at DT back to back. Not a bad haul in the first 10 picks.