Keshawn Martin again fighting for return duties

Keshawn Martin again fighting for return duties
June 4, 2014, 11:00 am
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Houston Texans wide receiver Keshawn Martin (82) returns a punt for a touchdown during the second quarter against the Oakland Raiders at Reliant Stadium.

(USA Today Sports Images)

For the last two seasons, wide receiver Keshawn Martin has been the Texans’ primary kick and punt returner. So he’ll keep those jobs in 2014 right?

Well, not necessarily. Head coach Bill O’Brien has said the competition was wide open.

“Anytime you got guys that we got on our team and a lot of guys are capable of doing punt returns, kick returns, it’s just a sense of competition,” Martin said on Tuesday. “Everybody likes competition. It makes the job more (fun). I look at it as that. I’m ready to compete.”

As a rookie in 2012, Martin averaged a solid 12.1 yards per punt return (good for fifth in the NFL) and 23.9 yards per kick return (17th). In 2013, his punt return average dropped to 8.8 (15th) and his kick return average rose to 26.3 (eighth).

Martin, who finally got his first return touchdown (on a punt) in Week 11 against Oakland last year, said he thought he started to get better as his second NFL season went on. He said his improvement was thanks to researching opponents and rising confidence.

So what does head coach Bill O’Brien want in a return man?

“Just a consistent guy overall,” O’Brien said. “Just a guy that makes good decisions of fielding the ball, when to fair catch and a productive guy. That is what we are looking for at that position.”

The interesting thing about Martin battling for the return job is that he’s – for the most part – battling with the same players for the slot receiver spot too. Mike Thomas and Alan Bonner are also slot receivers with return capabilities.

Martin spent this offseason trying to get stronger and more physical. He’s up to around 200 pounds now. And he still worked on his routes and returns.

Martin has been the Texans’ primary slot receiver for the past two seasons too and has found minimal success. He has 32 catches for 338 yards and three touchdowns. His second season was definitely better than the first. But now, he has a brand new offense to learn, one that gives him much more freedom than the last.

“I feel like I fit (in the new offense) well,” Martin said. “Like I said, I’m just going out there, making plays, getting more confidence every day. But it’s more freedom to do a certain thing on a certain route depending on a coverage, so a lot of guys have been doing a great job with it and we’ll continue to do that.”

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