Caldwell: Sam Martin's best is yet to come

Posted Jul 24, 2015

It's evident Sam Martin is a talented punter, but according to head coach Jim Caldwell, Martin hasn’t come close to reaching his full potential just yet.

Sam Martin has accomplished a lot in his first two seasons in the NFL.

He averaged 47.2 yards per punt in 2013 and 46.1 in 2014, both ranking in the top 10 in the NFL. In those two seasons he put a combined 51 punts inside the 20-yard line with only 15 touchbacks. His net average was 40.4 yards in 2013 and 40.1 in 2014, giving him the third-best net average for a punter in NFL history (min. 80 punts) in his first two seasons in the league.

On kickoffs last season, Martin was fifth in the NFL in touchbacks with 53. He was tied with Pat McAfee of the Colts for second with a 70.7 percent rate of touchbacks.

Sam MartinP Sam Martin (Photo: Detroit Lions)

Those are all terrific numbers, but there were times last season when Martin wasn’t so great.

He kicked the ball out of bounds in Week 17 in Green Bay after the Lions had just come back from a 14-0 deficit to tie a game that would decide the NFC North champion. The Packers took the ball from the 40-yard line and scored seven plays later to take the lead for good.

His 10-yard shank at the end of the Dallas playoff game couldn’t have come at a worse time. It gave the ball to the Cowboys at their 41-yard line rather than pinned deep in their own territory. Dallas drove 59 yards in 11 plays for the winning touchdown.

“It was the worst punt of my life,” Martin told Mike O’Hara and back in March. “It sucks. It’s like anything else. Like a fumble, or an interception, you’ve got to put it in the back of your mind.

“The two biggest things that suck are, it definitely contributed to a loss in the biggest game of the year. And two, having that being my last punt of my season.”

But with training camp starting in less than two weeks, a new season is upon us and with that comes new opportunities for one of the bright young punters in the game.

Martin has a big leg -- we all know that. He ranks third in NFL history in gross punting average by a player in his first two seasons (46.69), and already owns two of the 10 longest punts (72 and 71 yards) in Lions history.

But according to head coach Jim Caldwell, Martin hasn’t come close to reaching his true potential as a punter just yet.

“The thing about guys how they handle the ball, I just think they become more and more proficient as time goes on,” Caldwell said. “Certainly, he’s working to do that.

“To be able to do what they do with the ball right now is just incredible. They can back the ball up, make it stop and die, things of that nature. But to be able to punt the ball and punt teams back inside of their own territory, pin them deep, I think it’s something that obviously he’s focusing in on and concentrating on.

“He’s got a strong leg. Often times you’ll find with these guys is that some forms of strengths really don’t reach their max until they’re 28 or 29, so he’s still developing.”

Martin has proven to be well worth the fifth-round selection the team used on him in the 2013 NFL Draft. He’s turned the Lions punting game into one of the top 10 units in the NFL.

The next step for Martin is putting the few bad punts he's had behind him. He's yet to boot the ones fans will remember most.