Days after a loss to the Cleveland Browns and a strong performance by Jacob Martin, the Texans are expected to significantly expand the defensive end's role against the Carolina Pantherson Thursday nightat NRG Stadium.
Martin could even start against Carolina, depending on the opening-game defensive package, after recording a sack against Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield while playing 25 snaps overall and 41 percent of the defensive playing time during the 31-21 road loss. A former Seattle Seahawks sixth-round draft pick from Temple acquired in the Jadeveon Clowney trade, Martin has 10 1/2 career sacks, 19 quarterback hits and four forced fumbles. and is known for his speed and quickness.
Defensive end Jon Greenard. meanwhile, is also expected to have a major role against Carolina, according to sources, after being inactive for the first two games of the regular season after being sidelined with a sprained ankle during the preseason. A third-round draft pick from Florida last year, Martin had one sack and three quarterback hits in 13 games with one start as a rookie last year. Greenard has gotten bigger and stronger in the Texans' offseason conditioning program.
The Texans started Charles Omenihu and Whitney Mercilus in the first two games of the season.
A former fifth-round draft pick from Texas, Omenihu has six tackles and one quarterback hit this season after recording four sacks and 16 quarterback hits last season.
Mercilus has five tackles and one sack this season. He recorded four sacks and seven quarterback hits last season. The former first-round draft pick from Illinois has 55 career sacks and 13 forced fumbles.
Overall while infrequently blitzing this season, the Texans' overhauled and 17th-ranked defense has three sacks and six quarterback hits
Martin bolted out of his three-point stance Sunday, accelerating into the Browns' backfield to sackMayfield.
It was another example of the Texans pass rusher's uncanny quickness at the line of scrimmage.
The defensive end has maintained his speed despite adding some muscle this offseason.
Martin has one of the fastest get-off moves in the leagues, according to teammates' opinions and metrics tracking NFL players.
The former Seattle Seahawks sixth-round draft pick from Temple ranked third in the NFL for the fastest get-off among all defensive players after the first game of the season with an average time of 0.69 seconds. That ranked Martin only behind the Los Angeles Chargers' Joey Bosa's 0.51 seconds and the Pittsburgh Steelers' Alex Highsmith's 0.65 seconds.
"Jacob Martin, the guy gets off the ball like crazy," Texans defensive end Whitney Mercilus said. "He's got good pass rush moves, he's got an arsenal in his repertoire. He's going to be able to get a couple sacks out there, I ain't going to lie to you.
"He's got good bend, good hands, great get-off on the ball. It's just getting him those one-on-ones. Hopefully, we get a chance to get the quarterback to hold the ball a little bit and give him a chance.”
Martin recorded a sack and forced fumble in a preseason win over the Dallas Cowboys.
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.
“It’s a race to the quarterback,” Martin said. “It’s who can get there first. It’s a competition. That’s one of our mottos: cause havoc in the backfield and get turnovers. We try to finish .Being around the ball is how you create turnovers.”
Martin is facing his former college coach, Matt Rhule, on Thursday.
The Next Gen stat told a story about Martin, who's playing 43 percent of the defensive snaps, and his twitchiness as a defensive player.
“I haven't seen that stat, but it doesn't surprise me," Texans defensive coordinator Lovie Smith said. "Jacob has excellent speed. He fits a profile that we would like at our five technique, our open-end position. He's athletic enough, you've seen him play on different special teams too. Maybe even linebacker-type skill set that he has.
"It's a big game for him, of course, playing against his old college coach too. But we want to be able to rush the passer with a four-man rush and not have to rely on blitzing and Jacob does that. Get him in a one-on-one situation with a tackle, again, he can beat a lot of guys.”
For the Texans' offensive line, competing against Martin in practice helps them prepare for speed rushers, including the Panthers' Brian Burns and Haason Reddick.
"I think I saw somewhere he has one of the fastest get-offs in the league," Texans left offensive guard Tytus Howard said. "Trust me, I've practiced against him, I went against him a lot on one-on-ones, and you can feel that get-off. So, I think going against guys like him helps prepare us for the game.”
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.