The bar was set high for rookie Sam Martin and he's living up to it

Posted Oct 8, 2013

Special teams coordinator John Bonamego continues to be pleased with the play of punter Sam Martin

Sam MartinSam Martin (Photo: G. Smith/Detroit Lions)

Rookie punter Sam Martin will be the first to admit that his first-ever game in the NFL was less than stellar.

Martin muffed the snap on a field goal attempt and had just a 38.0 punting average, with punts of 33 and 29 yards included among his totals, in a Week 1 win over Minnesota.

It's easy to chalk that up to nerves, at this point, because Martin has been one of the league's best punters since, averaging more than 50 yards per punt in each contest.

He currently ranks second in the NFL in punting average (49.5) behind Brandon Fields (50.6) of Miami.

Take Week 1 out of the equation and Martin has averaged 51.9.

"I mean, the bar was pretty high," special teams coach John Bonamego said of Martin. "He's doing what we expected him to do. It's the reason we drafted him. I think what makes him a little different is that he's doing three jobs."

Martin handles all the punting and kickoff duties and is also the holder on the field goal team.

"He's a very good worker and has a good head on his shoulders and as good as he's done, I feel like he still has a very high ceiling," Bonamego said. "I still think that he can get even better."

Considering Martin completely changed the way he punts the football -- from the way he holds it to the way drops it -- compared to when he first got to Detroit, it's not hard to think the rookie fifth-round pick will continue to get even better.

Martin said last week that he'd like to see the gap between his net punting average, which is now 42.1 (seventh in NFL), and average become smaller, and that's one of things he's working on the most.

"Punting is one of those lost arts," Bonamego said. "Being a rookie, I think he'll tell you that he's learning something every time out. Every stadium is different, and as the climate changes later in the year, that's going to effect things.

"It's learning to manage the elements and being really good at situational punting. It's not just banging away at the ball. He's done a good job with what we've asked him to do with his directional placement. That's the part to me that's been encouraging and I have been pleased with that part of it."

Bonamego also spoke on the challenge he faces this week in Cleveland and losing Theo Riddick to injury:

On facing Cleveland this week: "We have another big challenge this week and it's like we've been through murderers row with returners. This kid (Travis) Benjamin in Cleveland might be our biggest test so far outside of (Devin) Hester. I think they're exceptionally well coached. They do a great job with their scheme and technique and (Benjamin) is very dangerous. He's what I like to term, 'A scary dude.'"

On how big a loss Theo Riddick would be if he can't return this week from the concussion he suffered in Green Bay: "It affects us on every unit. Theo is a four-corps player for us. He plays on punt, kickoff, kickoff return and punt return, so, for us, that's equivalent to losing an every-down starter on offense or defense. It most certainly affects us but it means other guys will have to carry a little heavier load and we'll adjust."