Offensive lineman Wes Martin has been through the ups and downs in his first year playing professional football.
Inactive the first three games, the fourth-round rookie saw his first action in Weeks 4 and 5, starting in place of the injured Brandon Scherff at right guard. In that span, Martin did not miss a noffensive snap.
But that pronounced role ended abruptly, when a chest injury sidelined him for the foreseeable future. He'd have to wait three weeks before returning to practice and five weeks before suiting up for another game, where he'd be limited to appearances on special teams.
Eventually, though, after earning just 15 total snaps through his first four weeks back, Martin received a second chance to start along the offensive line last week against the Philadelphia Eagles.
And with Scherff going to Injured Reserve earlier this week with a shoulder injury, Martin will have two more opportunities to start before the 2019 season ends.
"It's always good to get out there and get in the action," Martin told Redskins.com on Monday. "We all love to play football; that's why we're still playing the game. It's just good to get out there and knock the rust off."
Of course, it's not easy to transition back into a starting role after a couple of months away from the line. That's especially true when lining up against an Eagles defensive front that ranks third in the NFL in run defense (90.4 yards allowed per game).
And yet, the 6-foot-3, 315-pound Martin more than held his own in Week 15, keeping five-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle Fletcher Cox in check.
"I think I did some things decently. I think there's definitely room for improvement," Martin noted modestly before speaking about his performance against Cox. "He's elite. ...When you talk about [defensive] tackles, he's a name that always comes up. I knew it was gonna be a battle and a fight the whole game."
Interim head coach Bill Callahan was more forthcoming in his analysis of Martin.
"Wes Martin filled in well for Brandon Scherff. I thought that was a real positive up against Fletcher Cox," Callahan said in a press conference on Monday. "In the sub situations, Cox wasn't over him at the time, so he had [defensive end] Brandon Graham over him. He had two of the best rushers in our division match up against him, and I thought he fared pretty well against them."
On Thursday, Callahan added to that praise, commending Martin for his activity in open space against the Eagles.
"The ability to recognize that man defender – what we would call a 'mugger,' he's mugging up on the back as the back is trying to release through the line of scrimmage – and then making that decision to go activate yourself up on him and recognize it, make the adjustment and then block it up, that's a pretty big play for a young guard," Callahan said when asked about Martin's role in helping to spring Adrian Peterson for a run after the catch late in the third quarter. "It speaks to his ability, his training, his ability to execute in a critical moment."
Take a look at practice photos from Wednesday's practice for the upcoming game.
Moving forward, a key for Martin is to continue developing his game within all areas of the interior of Washington's offensive line.
"When you have a limited number of players who are up on game day, you have to just have contingency plans upon contingency plans," said Redskins offensive line coach Phil Rauscher. "For us to be able to keep the best package of players out there on the field as a group of linemen, you have to develop [Martin] at all three inside positions."
In all of the game action he's had so far, Martin has already demonstrated that ability to be flexible. According to Callahan, playing right guard -- where he's lined up in each of his three starts -- isn't even his natural position.
"I think he's more natural to be on the left side," Callahan acknowledged. "I thought that with Ereck [Flowers Sr.] being positioned where he was at and where we were aligning him or thinking about putting him kind of forced the hand for Wes to be the backup on the right side."
Wherever he ends up, Martin has the potential to thrive at either guard or center, Rauscher said.
"One day, somebody may be like, 'You know what, he'd be a damn good center,' and I wouldn't disagree with that. And if you said, 'Hey, he's going to be a damn good guard,' I wouldn't disagree with you on that either. He's going to be a damn good player one way or another."
Before he gets to that point, though, Martin will be sure to focus on what's in front of him as he looks to take advantage of these last two games.
"It's a huge opportunity," noted Callahan. "I think the more that you get matched up against different people, whether it's divisional or non-divisional, I think it just adds to your book of experience."
"[He] can learn a little more about the opponent, a little bit more about the scheme and the techniques that are deployed against [him]."