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Quan Martin looking to be 'that guy' in Year 2


Quan Martin made the play of the day, and possibly of the entire offseason workout program, during the Washington Commanders' Wednesday mandatory minicamp practice.

Martin, playing safety during one of the team's 11-on-11 drills, sprinted across the field hoping to get a hand on the pass Marcus Mariota floated to his left in the direction of Chris Rodrigues Jr. The first attempt only resulted in a deflection, but he managed to secure the ball on the second. And to make things more challenging, he did so by grabbing it behind his back before running to the end zone.

It's difficult to expect plays like that from Martin on a regular basis, but the Commanders do still have high hopes for the former second-round pick as he enters Year 2. The new coaching staff and scheme presents an opportunity for Martin to build on the momentum he had in the second half of his rookie season, and the team is looking to put him at any spot that can elevate his skill set.

Martin would say where he's at on the field doesn't matter to him. He's looking to improve, regardless of his role.

"Just wherever I'm needed at, to be honest," Martin said.

Martin, taken with the No. 47 overall pick in 2023, was drafted by Washington to give the secondary more flexibility with one of the best defensive backs in the class. It took some time for him to find his groove as a rookie.

From Weeks 1-9, Martin played a combined 17 defensive snaps, recording just nine tackles in the process. It took until Week 12, when the season was quickly slipping away, for Martin to get his first start, and from the Commanders' Thanksgiving game against the Cowboys to the season finale, Martin had 33 tackles and an interception.

It seemed like Martin was just starting to get a grasp of the speed and expectations of the professional level when the team decided to relieve Ron Rivera and his staff of their duties, meaning there would be a new defensive scheme for him to learn. Fortunately, the new head coach -- Dan Quinn -- already knew "quite a bit" about Martin.

"I thought he was just a really good tackler and so at safety there's probably even more communication that takes place from last year," Quinn said. "He was featured a lot playing nickel. And so, for a guy that can do both of those, that's a really big push."

The Commanders have been trying players at multiple spots on both sides of the ball to figure out where they are best suited to help the team. Martin, however, is one of the players who has moved the least, telling reporters June 5 that most of his work has been at safety.

No matter where he is, though, Quinn likes what he can add to the defense.

"Man, I'm really excited about what he is, what he can be and I just feel like he's one of those people I'm feeling this momentum take place for him to ride this big wave in because he's just gaining confidence in this new system and that's really important to do that this time of year, so, then the month of training camp that he's really ready to apply it."

Though the Commanders have only installed a fraction of the new defense, Martin loves what he has experienced so far. The level of communication has increased thanks to defensive coordinator Joe Whitt's insistence on being what Martin referred to as a "chatty" unit. Players are moving around more in the secondary to create as much confusion for opposing quarterbacks as possible.

Paying attention to the smaller details has also been a point of emphasis, and if Martin does end up being a starter, the coaches want him to meet their expectations.

"It's definitely different, different demand," Martin said of getting reps with the starting defense. "Coaches have been on me more just about communicating, being more vocal. So, [I'm] just trying to take on that role and be that guy."

For now, it seems like the Commanders believe Martin is one of the foundational pieces that can be used to revitalize their defense.

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