HOUSTON (CBS HOUSTON) — Texans coach Bill O’Brien does not usually heap praise on rookies or even get into specifics about their progression as players, especially before preseason games begin.
While it came with mild qualifiers, O’Brien more than hinted that first-year center Nick Martin will break that mold.
“He’s one of the better rookies I’ve ever been around,” O’Brien said Wednesday after day four of Texans Training Camp.
“He’s a good player, he’s tough, he’s strong and a very smart guy. He’ll have his ups and downs, just being a rookie and dealing with the physical nature of college football versus pro football. But he’s solid.”
Martin’s partner under center and new Texans quarterback Brock Osweiler didn’t downplay O’Brien’s words. Instead, he doubled down on compliments for his new center.
“Nick comes to work, and he has an edge about him,” Osweiler said. “He wants to get better, and he actually does get better every day.
“A rookie center coming into this system and playing at the level he is? It’s really impressive.”
There is precedent for rookie greatness on the offensive line. It might even run in the family.
Martin’s older brother, Zack, a fellow Notre Dame alumnus, turned in an All-Pro season at right guard for the Dallas Cowboys in 2014. He was the first rookie lineman to earn All-Pro honors since 1947.
But younger brother isn’t trying to live up to those lofty levels right now. The first week of Training Camp is crucial for Houston’s second-round pick as he adjusts to a full-time role, since veterans like Duane Brown and Derek Newton are absent due to injuries.
“A lot to learn, a lot of studying,” Martin said. “I haven’t been in the system that long, but I’m trying to pick something out every day and master it and just know everything. That’s important as a center.”
With pads finally on for the past two days, the physical adjustment O’Brien alluded to has been apparent. Martin was on a line that has been mostly manhandled by a strong defensive front seven, including in Tuesday’s goal-line drills.
“That’s what you want, facing greats like [Vince] Wilfork and [Jadeveon] Clowney or [Whitney] Mercilus,” Martin said. “You’re not going to see anyone better. You want to go against guys like that every day.”
Given O’Brien’s praise for him, it wouldn’t surprise if Martin is still facing those stars and starters every day with the first team once regular-season practices roll around.