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Keshawn Martin stepping up in wide-open WR group

Posted Aug 3, 2012

Rookie wide receiver Keshawn Martin, a fourth-round pick from Michigan State, has been one of the most impressive players at Texans training camp.

Rookie WR Keshawn Martin catches a pass despite tight coverage from CB Johnathan Joseph during a recent Texans training camp practice at the Methodist Training Center.

The Texans have a wide-open depth chart at wide receiver after Andre Johnson and Kevin Walter. Opportunity is ripe for the taking.

Rookie Keshawn Martin looks like he’s on his way to taking it.

A fourth-round draft pick from Michigan State, Martin has been one of the most impressive players at Texans training camp. He has practiced with the first-team offense since Thursday as Johnson sits out with a groin injury, and he looks every bit like he belongs.

“I think he’s showing that he’s capable of doing it,” Texans coach Gary Kubiak said. “There are some growing pains, there are some things that he’s got to go through, but he’s very professional in his approach. Doesn’t say a word, just works, and he’s going against J-Joe (Pro Bowl cornerback Jonathan Joseph) every day. That’ll make you good real quick.”

Quick is the operative word with Martin. He’s smaller (5-11, 194) than a typical Texans receiver, but he makes up for it with explosiveness, crisp route-running, sure hands and run-after-the-catch ability.

Martin ranks 10th in Michigan State history in all-purpose yards (4,013) and scored a touchdown five different ways (passing, rushing, receiving, punt return, kick return) in his college career. He ran a 4.45 40-yard dash and had a 39.5-inch vertical jump at the NFL Scouting Combine.

“He’s got great speed,” Kubiak said. “I think what you could see is he can catch some little ones and turn them into real big ones. That’s what you look for in the pass game. You don’t have time to sit back there and wait on things to get way down the field, but if you can throw a slant, a guy can make somebody miss and go to the house, that’s what you want.”

The 22-year-old Martin, a native of Inkster, Mich., has made a strong impression on the Texans’ quarterbacks, too.

“He’s a tremendous worker,” Matt Schaub said on Friday. “He’s done a great job just picking things up. You don’t see a lot of mental errors out of him. He really understands his role, really listens and takes in all the information he can. You can really see him working, and he just makes plays. He creates a lot of separation from corners to give you a chance to make a throw where he can catch it and make something happen. We like the potential he brings.”

Of Martin’s 776 receiving yards as a senior in 2011, 445 came after the catch. He had 59 plays of 20-plus yards and 17 plays of 40-plus yards in his career.

“As a quarterback, the best thing you can do is throw a five-yard route and turn it into a 30-yard gain,” Schaub said. “There’s nothing better than that. We’ve got a ton of guys that can do that for us, but the change of direction and the wiggle that he has in his routes really gives you that opportunity.”

Said Schaub’s backup, T.J. Yates: “K-Mart is so quick on the inside. He’s fierce in and out of his cuts, which is really going to help us, I think, get a different look.”

Johnson has helped usher Martin along, a role the five-time Pro Bowler embraces. Johnson has taken note of Martin’s exploits on the field, as well as the rookie's strikingly reserved nature off of it.

“I think he’s playing well,” Johnson said. “He just took advantage of an opportunity. He’s made a lot of plays, and, you know, he doesn’t say anything. I thought I was quiet – he’s quieter than me. I always ask him how he’s feeling, is he alright. He just is quiet, just goes out there and plays, and he’s been having a great camp so far.

“I never thought I’d see anybody that was less talkative than me, but he really doesn’t say anything. He comes in in the morning, he might give you a head nod and keep it moving. But he plays well, man. He’s been doing a great job.”

Asked about Johnson saying he’s the only player quieter than him, Martin laughed.

“It’s probably true, man,” he said. “I don’t really talk that much. That’s just how I am.”

After a strong start to his first NFL training camp, Martin knows he has plenty of work left to do.

“It’s going pretty good,” Martin said. “I feel like I’m doing very well. Just gotta keep plugging away at it, keep making plays and just keep doing the right things. Every day, I feel like I get more confident in myself and my skills.

“I’ve just got to go out there on the field and just play, have fun. I feel like I can make a big play at any time. I think of myself as a big-play guy.”

He certainly looks like one so far.


Twitter.com/NickScurfield

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