Martin, 22, is listed at 6-foot-2 and 220 pounds and is an undrafted rookie out of LSU. He played in four preseason games with Seattle but did not make their final roster, despite the fact that Kam Chancellor is holding out. In four years at LSU, Martin started 21 games and recorded 150 tackles and five interceptions.
After the jump, I look in detail at footage from Martin's career so far to evaluate some of his strengths and weaknesses.
Who is Ronald Martin?
Martin attended LSU, where he followed in the footsteps of NFL players Eric Reid and Craig Loston at the safety position. He played sparingly in his first season and then saw his role increase in year two, recording two interceptions and running one back for a score against Idaho. In year three, he became a more regular starter but then missed the last four games due to injury.
Entering his senior year, he was a full-time starter for the first time, having started eight games over the course of his first three years. While he had a solid senior year with career-bests in tackles (74) and passes defensed (nine), Martin didn't have the best pro day and went undrafted.
In Seattle, Martin worked exclusively with backups and recorded 11 tackles and two passes broken up in four preseason games before being released during final cutdowns.
Here's my observations from watching footage of Martin in action, divided into categories:
Martin has a reputation as an in-the-box safety and it's certainly true that he crept into the box a lot both while at LSU and in Seattle. However, he did play the majority of the time outside the box and also did receive plenty of direct coverage assignments. In the preseason, he was in the box on just 27 of his 135 snaps and matched up in the slot on 13.
While he is listed at 6-foot-2 and 220 and this largely feeds into the perception of him as a strong safety type, Martin's pro day measurements were actually just 200 pounds and a half-inch over six feet tall. Any suggestion that he might have slimmed down in order to post better athletic numbers is not helped by the fact that none of his athletic numbers were any better than average and some were actually pretty poor.
On the field, Martin seems to close well on the ball and runs people down well in pursuit. I didn't really see any limitations from him athletically.
Martin's coverage numbers are pretty good and he shows an ability to close well on the ball in direct coverage assignments. Most of the passes he gave up in coverage seemed to come in zone coverage, including a couple of crossing routes in the last game of the preseason -- a nine-yarder in front of him and a 25-yarder behind him, so maybe he can improve in terms of his anticipation and awareness.
While I have seen Martin up at the line in press coverage, he mostly seemed to play off. There were times where he struggled to get off a block or through traffic downfield, although that might perhaps be aided by some time in a pro-level weights program. In LSU's bowl game last year, Notre Dame scored on a wide receiver screen as he was blocked completely out of the play in the slot. Also, in the preseason, he was cut to the ground by a slot receiver, allowing a running back to get to the outside for a 42-yard gain. As further evidence of his need to work on his strength, Martin lifted the bar just 10 times at his pro day.
Penalties don't seem to be a major issue for Martin, who was not penalized at all in his senior season. He was penalized in the preseason for roughing the passer, but this was a terrible call on a clean hit.
Martin made a lot of plays on the ball while in college and seems to have excellent timing when breaking on intermediate routes. In terms of the interceptions he made, these all seemed to be on badly thrown balls and more or less uncontested. He also dropped one in the preseason.
Martin was a productive tackler in college and made plenty of tackles against the run, albeit only one tackle for a loss in his entire career. During the preseason, he showed some flashes of this kind of ability, notably on a play where he came up to plug a gap after the runner tried to cut back and made the stop for a loss. On one other play, he pursued the runner across the field on an outside run to stop him for a short gain although the runner did kind of give himself up to stay inbounds.
On that play, Martin stayed at home and reacted well, but on another he run blitzed and the lineman reacted and used his momentum against him to take him out of the play. Nevertheless, there were two defenders in behind him to make the stop at the line.
Martin can be prone to missed tackles, although he only missed two in the preseason. One of these saw him throw himself at the receiver to try and stop him shy of the marker, but he was able to slip the tackle and fall forward. That was a worthwhile gamble. On the other one, he took a slightly poor angle and failed to make the tackle as he had to stretch out with his arms rather than get his body in front of the ball carrier. This wasn't something I saw him do a lot of, and hopefully that's just a matter of adjusting to NFL speed.
In college, there was one play against Sam Houston State where he was beaten on a long out and then missed the tackle, before getting up, getting himself back into the play and then letting the same player slip out of his tackle again. While that was perhaps poor technique, you had to admire his hustle on that play, a 39-yard gain.
He made one outstanding play in the preseason, reading the pass to the flat and closing fast to blow the receiver up for a loss.
Martin forced three fumbles in college.
Martin had zero sacks in college and wasn't officially credited with any hurries, either. However, he did blitz three times last year and each time he did he was unblocked and able to get pressure on the quarterback. In theory, his skill-set would seem to lend itself to being effective at this. In the preseason, he rushed the quarterback twice. One of these, again unblocked, was what led to the roughing call mentioned above.
Martin was involved in some coverage breakdowns, but obviously I can't say for sure if he was at fault. One, from college, saw him covering the slot but when the slot ran a hitch route, the outside corner came off his man running a deep post to pick that up. Martin was obviously expected to pick up the deeper route, but hesitated slightly and the deep ball went for a 44-yard gain.
Another example, from the same game, saw Dak Prescott throw a 74-yard touchdown as Martin jumped an outside route and left the slot receiver uncovered down the seam. On that play, Prescott had initially looked to scramble and two defensive backs pursued him into the backfield, leaving Martin in a no-win situation with two men to cover, but he still perhaps should have recognized this and dropped deep to concede the shorter gain.
Here's a similar issue from a preseason game against the Chargers.
At first glance, Martin (#42) isn't directly involved in the play, so it can't be his fault. However, if you go back and watch the pre-snap motion, Martin follows the tight end to the offensive right side, even though the linebacker on that side seems to indicate he's picking that guy up. As a result, both Martin and the linebacker cover that tight end and there is nobody covering the defensive right side of the field which the back leaks into.
That's obviously the communication breakdown that left the back wide open for the easy score, but it's again difficult to say for certain it was his fault.
Reports are that Martin has a great attitude and work ethic and it was apparent he was looked up to as a leader by his teammates by the end of his collegiate career.
Martin projects to be a difference-maker on special teams and did see time on four units during the preseason (kick return blocking, kick coverage, punt cover and punt rush). However, he didn't really make any contributions in his senior year, presumably because he was viewed as integral to the defense.
During the preseason, he beat his man at the line on a punt rush and drew a holding penalty while still getting pressure on the kick. However, when tasked with blocking a punt rusher off the edge on the punting unit, he got mowed down and almost allowed the punt to get blocked.
I'm not sure how well LSU and Seattle will prepare Martin for the demands of Todd Bowles' scheme, but the fact that he's been employed in a variety of roles bodes well. I would suggest that coverage breakdowns would be less likely in a defense like Seattle's, where the corners stick to one side and play man coverage, as opposed to one like Rex Ryan used to run that saw Revis follow the best receiver around and the Jets mix coverages around that.
The only injury red flag on Martin is that he missed the last four games of 2013 with a broken foot. He appeared to be completely over that in 2014 and started all 13 games.
While it was tough to be overly positive about this move when it came in conjunction with the release of Rontez Miles -- a personal favorite -- Martin's film does display a player with good potential and a nice set of skills. I also like the fact that he is a high-character player.
With that said, the fact that he wasn't going to be on Seattle's roster even though they were a few men down in their defensive backfield doesn't paint the picture of someone who is likely to contribute much right off the bat. And he didn't get any reps against starters in the preseason, so it would be quite a leap to expect him to jump right into game action.
There's a good chance that this is just bottom-of-the-roster machinations and the Jets will eventually try and put Martin on their practice squad, perhaps even for Miles, who would appear closer to being NFL ready. While there are only four safeties on the roster at the moment, the overall secondary depth is pretty good and there might not even be that many safety reps to go around, as I pointed out here.
If Martin gets a chance to contribute on special teams and can continue to develop, he might be a nice asset going forward.
I'll be back on Sunday morning with the first BGA gameday preview of the season!