Jets Signing Is Tearing Up Camp: ‘Safe Bet He’ll Stick Around’

Jacob Martin

Getty New York Jets edge rusher Jacob Martin with the Houston Texans in 2019.

The New York Jets season hasn’t begun yet but so far, general manager Joe Douglas’ 2022 free-agent class looks better than his first two years on the job.

Tight end Tyler Conklin has stolen the show at times but a handful of signings are poised to play a major role once Week 1 kicks off including Laken Tomlinson, Jordan Whitehead, D.J. Reed Jr., Duane Brown, Kwon Alexander, C.J. Uzomah and more.

Almost lost in the shuffle is an under-the-radar acquisition like Jacob Martin. The pass rusher has reportedly been tearing up training camp and despite the competition around him, should lock down an impactful Week 1 role.

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Martin Second to Only Lawson & Big Q

NYJ beat reporter Zack Rosenblatt named Martin as a “riser” during a recent preseason “stock report” on The Athletic.

“The free-agent signee played only 10 snaps against the [Philadelphia] Eagles, a sign the Jets didn’t feel like they needed to see him much more than that,” explained Rosenblatt. “If Martin started camp on the roster bubble, it feels like a safe bet now he’ll stick around — and be a key part of the edge rusher rotation. Martin had four sacks and six QB hits for the Texans last year and is more experienced than the other defensive ends expected to stick around, like Bryce Huff, [Jabari] Zuniga and first-round pick Jermaine Johnson.”

He added that “Martin has been a standout throughout camp, consistently getting pressure as much as just about anyone outside of Carl Lawson and [Quinnen] Williams.”

According to the Jets camp sack tally — determined by cross-referencing tweets and write-ups from beat reporters — the new defensive end has at least four sacks since pads went on.

It’s not all about sacks, however, as Martin’s steady pressure against the first-team offense has been just as important. Earlier in camp, Rosenblatt noted that the former Texan has “outplayed” fellow edge rushers like Vinny Curry, Huff and Zuniga, even if the sacks aren’t always there.

The floodgates opened shortly after that statement as Martin posted four sacks over two practices from August 8-9.

He followed that up with two QB pressures during his 10 preseason snaps in Philly.

The Jets have also praised Martin’s awareness and effort in the run game. Defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich called him “calculated in the way approaches everything.” He continued: “What I’m starting to learn about him — obviously, you watch the tape and you see the strain and you see the effort, you see the explosion, the speed. You saw that. We all knew that. What you didn’t know is the brain. What you didn’t know is the man, who he is. So, I think he’s going to really give us the opportunity to open up the playbook a little bit and take advantage of his versatility.”

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What to Do at Edge Rusher?

I’m not sure anyone ever expected the Jets to have the problem they’re currently faced with. Gang Green has had two pass rushers reach double-digit sacks since John Abraham did so in 2005 — Muhammad Wilkerson (twice) and Calvin Pace.

In 2022, it feels like the roster legitimately has three or four guys that could get there in Lawson, “Big Q,” John Franklin-Myers and either Martin or Johnson. Then you have really solid depth disruptors on the outside in the fan-favorite UDFA Huff, the scorching-hot Zuniga, game-ready rookie Micheal Clemons, and the veteran Curry.

That begs the question — how many defensive ends will the Jets roster and what will become of those that don’t make the cut?

Head coach Robert Saleh loves to employ a large rotation of hungry D-linemen but there has to be a roster limit on every position. Is that number nine DLs? 10?

It’s safe to say these seven players should make the roster barring injury: Lawson, Williams, “JFM,” Johnson, Clemons, Martin and Solomon Thomas.

That leaves two or three spots for some combination of Sheldon Rankins, Huff, Zuniga, Jonathan Marshall, Nathan Shepherd, Tanzel Smart, Curry and Bradlee Anae — and you need at least one or two of those remaining jobs to go to defensive tackles.

That puts Huff, Zuniga, Curry and Anae in a very tough position. It’s hard to see more than one of those three making it to Week 1, meaning a trade could be in order.

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