Prior to Nick Martin joining the Washington Commanders' roster 10 days ago, the last time the veteran center played alongside Carson Wentz was in 2016 during the Senior Bowl. The two are about to get a lot more familiar with each other.
Starting center Wes Schweitzer has been ruled out of Sunday's game against the Dallas Cowboys with a concussion. That means Martin will get his first start since the 2020 season. It is certainly a quick turnaround for one of the newest additions to the roster, but the six-year veteran has already made a strong impression on his coaches and teammates.
"Smart football player. He's done a nice job of picking up what we do," said head coach Ron Rivera. "He understands the game. He is very athletic. Great hand placement and like I said, he's picked up what we do very quickly."
Martin missed his rookie season because of an ankle surgery, but he was a key part of the Houston Texans' offensive line from 2017-20 with 62 starts, 46 of which were consecutive. Martin played college football at the University of Notre Dame and was a two-time captain for the Fighting Irish. During his final season with the program, he allowed just three hurries, three hits and one sack.
From what offensive coordinator Scott Turner has seen, Martin has been "a pro" from the moment he arrived in Washington.
"He's played in this league, started a lot of games," Turner said. "He understands what's at stake. He had a great job last week of studying and being ready to go in if we would've needed him in that game. He's done well so far in practice."
Martin's first start will be against a Cowboys front that is the most productive in the league with 13 sacks. They have the highest adjusted sack rate, according to Football Outsiders, and Micah Parsons, who leads the team with four sacks, has the fourth highest Pro Football Focus grade among edge defenders.
Wentz is confident that Martin will handle himself.
"He's a guy that's been around," Wentz said. "He understands it. He's very locked in with the calls and everything, so I don't think anybody has any doubts that he'll be ready to go. I'm excited for him to get a chance."
In other news concerning the offensive line, Charles Leno is listed as questionable with shoulder injury. He did not participate in Wednesday's practice with a shoulder injury, although Rivera said he was worried about his status for Sunday.
Here is a look at some of the top quotes from running backs coach Randy Jordan’s Friday press conference.
Take a look back at some of the Washington Commanders' previous matchup with the Dallas Cowboys. (Photos via The Associated Press)
-- On what Robinson can add to the offense when he returns:
"I think the biggest thing is you guys saw early in his career here with us is that he's got a really good feel in terms of being able to run the football. There's some certain things you can't teach, from the running back position in terms of feeling color and feeling where he needs to cut. He's got really good body balance, he's a little bit of a tweener when it comes to a thumper. And being able to set a guy and make a guy miss and be able to get that hidden yardage that we always talk about. Turning a negative gain blocked play into a plus-four where people don't really look at it and say, 'Oh man, that's just a four-yard gain.' But in our world, that's pretty good significance when you can keep the offensive caller on track getting those efficient runs as we call it."
-- On what he has seen out of RB Antonio Gibson:
"Yeah, I think the biggest thing is when you talk about Antonio is he's a back that's got size, he's got speed. We've all seen it. You look at it in terms of speed against Buffalo, when he was able to get the ball on a screen and be able to take it 75-plus yards. But when you watch him this year, he's doing exactly what we asked him to do in terms of his decision-making. You know, really when you look at it, the only run that he probably wants back is the one that he felt like he wanted to make a play and then got us in a negative situation down in the red zone. But everything else he's been pretty good in terms of his reads and getting his pass down and finishing with violence that we talk about. And he's also been used in some of those short yardage situations. So when you gotta go get one yard, and all of a sudden you look up and, per average, you really can't add that up in terms of saying, 'Oh, you have four or five opportunities to go get one yard when he's got like 12 or 13 carries.' So he's doing a good job for us."
-- On if pass protection is a major emphasis following last week's game:
"Well, I think the biggest thing is we talk about being an extension of the offensive line. And when you're not getting the football, what kind of player are you? Everybody sees the running back spot as a spot when you get the ball, you hand it off or you catch it. And I'm looking at all the play fakes. That's one thing that we can do to help our line is when we do play-action, is doing a great job in terms of faking, so we can affect the second level, the linebackers so that we've got easier throws when they're trying to stop the run. And then when you don't have the football when you're going through the line and Dallas leads the league in line stunts, and they're gonna stunt on Sunday is where you don't have the football and all of a sudden you see a guy looping or coming free, being able to chip, bang, to try to help in protection."
-- On how he thinks the running back room has played as a whole this year:
"I think they've done a really good job for what they've been asked to do. The one thing that's really good about this group of guys we have, they all have different skillsets. And the way [offensive coordinator] Scott [Turner] uses 'em and the way that we use 'em in our offense, you see [RB] J.D. [McKissic] out as a receiver and then you who's gonna match up with him? Safety, no. Linebacker, definitely not. So it gives defenses something to really think about and that's what you want to do so they can't play fast. And then you talk about a guy in [RB] Antonio [Gibson] that you saw early in the year run a seven route. I don't know a lot of 232-pound guys that can come out of the backfield and track a seven route like he did. So it gives us a lot of flexibility. I'm really happier in terms of what they've been doing for us so far."
-- On the limited carries in the first few weeks:
"I tell 'em, first of all, don't count the reps, but make the reps count. We talk about, number one is when you have an opportunity, you have to take advantage of it. First the person I think about from last week is J-Will [Jonathan Williams]. To come off the bench and get us a critical first down. We don't about carries. The old school football back in the day, I had an opportunity to coach Adrian Peterson and you know, the 25 to 30 carry running back. You would love to have that. You certainly do get in the rhythm in terms of the carries, but we have a multi-offense that we can move guys around and put 'em in the best position to be able to use their skillset."