The Punter position is often overshadowed in professional football. Some were even surprised when the Detroit Lions drafted Sam Martin in the fifth found last year. The critics were eventually silenced however after Martin’s great rookie season. He finished sixth in the NFL in punting average (47.2) and 10th in net punting average (40.2).
The Lions finished 13th in punt-return average, their best ranking since 2010.
He also took over kickoff duties for the Lions averaging 67.3-yards per kickoff, the highest in the NFL among any kicker with at least 10 kickoffs.
Going into 2014, Martin looks to have an even better season in his sophomore campaign. He’s been studying film, and he says he has noticed things that he can improve on.
“I noticed lots of times, no matter what the result of the punt was, good punt or bad punt, my technique oftentimes would deviate between punts.”
“Even if I hit a good ball sometimes I wouldn’t like my follow through. So the big focus was just getting more technically sound and repeating the same thing over and over.”
Martin has remain focused on his directional punting throughout OTA’s, and he says it has helped.
“My focus there was just getting more technically sound and repeating the same thing over and over, which has resulted — at least from what I’ve seen so far — in a lot more control of my directional punts, putting punts a lot closer to the sideline consistently. And I’m just more comfortable. I’ve shortened my steps a little bit. It’s little things like that are making me do less work with better results, in essence.”
Another key component to Martin’s continued improvement is having his special teams coordinator, John Bonamego back coaching him this year. Bonamego was among the few coaching holdovers after most of Jim Schwartz’s regime was fired.
“That was huge,” Martin said. “When all that was going on, I was hoping, let’s keep our fingers crossed. And then when I found out he was staying, that was awesome.”
“That’s definitely big for me not having to get used to a new system, a new coach and new philosophy. Bono knows me well, what’s good for me, what works for me, what doesn’t. So that was huge, especially just going into my second year.”
Martin will also likely be entering into a kickoff competition with Lions 2014 seventh-round draft pick Nate Freese. Martin would like to retain kickoff duties, but Freese would like the job too.
“I mean, he’s a kicker, he’s supposed to want it. Whoever the better kicker is will get the job. Or whatever. I don’t know. I know what I can do, and that’s all I can control. I feel good about that.”
It is hard to say who kicks off for the Lions next year at this point in time. One thing that is for sure, is that the effort that Martin has put in to get better hasn’t gone unnoticed.
Coach Jim Caldwell summed up Martin the best.
“Sam, obviously, has a live leg,” Caldwell said. “He does a great job. He’s athletic. I anticipate that he’s going to continue to improve. He’s only in his second year. He’s young. He’s done a nice job so far.”