Texans defensive end Jacob Martin got to indulge a lot more this offseason, perusing menus for plenty of tasty food in his ongoing quest for bulk as he returned to his natural defensive end position from outside linebacker.
Although Martin remains relatively lean for a defensive lineman, he has gained a significant amount of size and strength as he’s much bigger in his upper body and lower body through hoisting heavy weights and dramatically increasing his caloric intake overall. He has also enjoyed some cheat meals.
“I get to gorge a little bit more,” Martin said. “I get to eat the fun stuff a little bit more often. That’s always a plus. I’ve been meaning to do a 10,000-calorie day. Whether it’s an extra-large meat lover’s pizza or a Brazilian steakhouse, I want to try it.”
Martin played last season at roughly 242 pounds and is now up to 252 pounds. He added a lot of rice to his diet to incorporate more carbohydrates. One of his cheat meals: Lefty’s Cheesesteak, which is owned by Texans Pro Bowl quarterback Deshaun Watson.
“I don't have to watch as much what I eat,” Martin said. “I'm a leaner guy and I don't have to really watch as much what I'm putting in my body.”
Martin remains the Texans’ lightest and arguably their most explosive edge rusher. He had two sacks in the Texans’ scrimmage, beating offensive tackle Charlie Heck with a sudden burst to the quarterback.
Playing defensive end and not having pass coverage responsibilities is something Martin is thoroughly enjoying as part of the shift to a 4-3 base defense for new defensive coordinator Lovie Smith.
“It's awesome,” Martin said. “I'm not going to lie; it's just dope. It's a blessing for sure.”
Martin had three sacks and one forced fumble last season while playing 34 percent of the overall defensive snaps. Martin has frequently displayed speed as an edge rusher, including his sack of Kansas City Chiefs star quarterback Patrick Mahomes last season. Acquired in a trade involving former Texans pass rusher Jadeveon Clowney, the former Seattle Seahawks sixth-round draft pick from Temple has 9 ½ career sacks, four forced fumbles and 18 quarterback hits.
“It's like a homecoming for me, being able to put my hand back in the dirt,” Martin said. “ I was at Temple for three and a half years and played true defensive end and I'm a lot more comfortable playing defensive end rather than outside linebacker, honestly. So it's been nice, real nice to get back to that. ..
“I was more uncomfortable last year playing in coverage rather than having my hand in the dirt. This is something that’s a little more natural for me.”
During practices and the Texans’ preseason win over the Green Bay Packers, it’s become obvious that the defensive line is setting an intense tone for the defense overall.
““Everything starts up front and I said earlier in the offseason that the D-line brings the juice, D-Line brings the energy and when the D-line such, the rest of the defense is up and when the rest of the defense is up, and when the rest of the defense is up, the team goes,” Martin said. “I truly believe that the energy and the effort comes from the D-line in terms of how our team responds and plays.”
Martin is a charter member of the Rock Boyz, a group of defensive players that includes defensive end Whitney Mercilus and linebacker Zach Cunningham. They celebrate big plays by playing air guitar and dancing.
“Man, the Rock Boyz are coming for it all,” Martin said. “I'm gonna say that in a very powerful way. I think the group we have right now with us they're hungry. Dudes want it harder than I've ever been around. Dudes want it. Like the Rock Boyz is a staple of the Houston Texans and I think this year will solidify this name and this brand and be able to represent the city of Houston better than ever.”
Martin sounded downright offended during his charity event this summer at gloomy projections surrounding the Texans, who went 4-12 last season and have added 53 new players. Many predictions have said the team will have the worst record in the NFL, which Martin scoffed at.
“A lot of people are counting us out right now, we don’t play this game to lose,” Martin said. “F--- that. Excuse my language. We’re not here for that. We’re here to win. I don’t lace up my cleats on Sundays to lose.”
Standing next to Martin, Mercilus nodded in approval and echoed his teammate's sentiment.
“I’m co-signing as someone who’s been around and see just about everything and experienced the ebbs and flows of the organization,” Mercilus said. “These guys are hungry and we’re going for the whole enchilada.”
Aaron Wilson has covered the NFL for 20 seasons, including the Texans, Baltimore Ravens, Tennessee Titans and Jacksonville Jaguars. He has previously written for The Houston Chronicle and The Baltimore Sun. He’s on Twitter: @AaronWilson_NFL and Instagram: @aaronwilson7128.