If there has been anything we can rely on week in and week out with the Lions, it’s the fact that punter Sam Martin is always on top of his game.
As fellow writer Julius Porter mentioned in a work this morning, Martin is the closest thing to “stable” on the entire roster. Luckily for us as Lions fans, Martin is extremely stable.
Through 10 games this season, Martin has seen a fair amount of work (40 punts), and ranks as the second best punter in the league with an average of 49.6 yards per punt. Sure, he has a boot and knows how to use it. But, the real value in special teams is reflected in what kind of field position the opponent has when they start their drive. This is where Martin (and the rest of the punt unit) has really earned their pay checks this season. Martin currently leads the league in net punt yards, at 45.8 yards per punt. Meaning that each time he punts the ball, opposing drives start 45.8 yards (on average) from where he punted.
While of course a large amount of credit for Martin is well deserved, it can’t be ignored that the coverage units are doing a great job of getting to the returner before he has a chance to break a big play. Of Martin’s 40 punts, only 11 have resulted in fair catches, and only one has gone for a touchback. Only one. 22 of those 40 punts have been returned, for a grand total of 133 yards. That’s an average of 6.05 yards on each punt that has been returned, which is tied for the sixth best mark in the league.
Gunners Don Carey and Johnson Bademosi also play important roles in punt coverage, as they are generally the first ones to get to the return man. As shown by the average amount of yards they allow per punt, it’s clear that they are doing tremendous jobs of preventing big plays after a punt.
In the wake of a tremendous first three seasons (plus 10 games this season), the Lions gave Martin an extension that made him the third highest paid punter in the game. Was it a wise investment? Only time will tell, but so far so good.