In the Jets' defensive front, the number four, as in a 4-3 alignment, is merely a starting point. Under the scheme devised by head coach Robert Saleh and defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich, the goal is to build a unit that is athletic, gets after the passer, can control the run, and is deep and flexible. A group that can attack, exert pressure while easing it on the defensive backfield.
The return of edge rusher Carl Lawson from injury will undoubtedly help. The prospect of nabbing a top-rated DE in the NFL Draft with the No. 4 or No. 10 picks has been bandied about for the past month, and will be chewed over for the next month or so. But that didn't mean that general manager Joe Douglas would leave the D-line unaddressed in free agency.
First Douglas re-signed DT Nathan Shepherd. Then, late last week, Douglas may have unearthed a gem that has yet to be fully polished when he signed Jacob Martin from Houston in free agency.
"This system most definitely shows a lot of love to the edge players," Martin, 26, said. "It's something that I'm looking forward to — not having to go backward in terms of being in coverage. Obviously certain situations you may have to be in, but the majority of my job I'm going forward, which is what I want to do. I'm very good at going in one direction.
"It also allows you to play balls to the wall. You know you're going to be in the game, but there's no need for me to play 75 snaps. We got a good eight in the defensive rotation, creating knockback and rushing the passer. This defense is primed for edge guys like me, who get off the ball, set edges and get after the quarterback."
In terms of Martin's career trajectory, that direction has been pointing up. Martin (6-2, 245) played the past three seasons with the Texans and amassed his best numbers during the 2021 NFL season. He played in all 17 games (a career-high 14 starts) and also had his most tackles (23), tackles for loss (5), sacks (4), pass defenses (3) and forced fumbles (2) of his career. The native of Aurora, CO, was the Seahawks' sixth-round pick in 2018 out of Temple, before being traded to Houston after one season as a part of the deal that sent DE Jadeveon Clowney to Seattle.
"I feel I am just scratching the surface," he told team reporter Eric Allen. "Last year was my first opportunity to start. They gave me an opportunity and I took advantage. My year-on-year numbers have gotten better."
For his career, Martin has 64 tackles, 13 TFL, 13.5 sacks, 6 FF, 4 pass defenses, 3 fumble recoveries and 24 QB hits. In addition, according to NFL Next Gen States, Martin has one of the quickest get-offs (0.86, 24th among 125 pass rushers last season) in the NFL and his 4.59 time in the 40-yard dash at his Temple pro day projected to a rank in the 92nd percentile among edge rushers at the NFL Combine up until 2018.
"I'm a big believer that the first step is everything," he said. "The pass rusher is trying to close space, make the offensive linemen as uncomfortable as possible. You have to get on them as fast as possible, so however fast you can get off the ball and imagine your body tied on a string to the ball, as the ball moves I'm moving with the ball. That's what I'm thinking about when I get off the ball."
Martin's brother Josh played for the Jets for three seasons (2016-18) following a practice-squad stint in 2015 and spoke highly of his time with the Green & White.
"My brother told me everything, and he thanks the organization for everything they've done," said Jacob Martin. "The Jets have done good by the Martin family for sure. It's coming full circle."
As the only defensive line player signed by the Jets in their active first week of free agency, Martin said he sensed nothing but excitement and commitment from Douglas, Saleh and the coaching staff.
"The guys we have in locker room, the front office, head coach, general manager ... I love everything about his organization. We align in terms of the way we attack football, the way we talk about football and share the same love for football. To play with guys like JFM [John Franklin-Myers], Quinnen [Williams], Bryce Huff and Carl [Lawson] coming back. I'm very excited to play with this defensive front.
"We played the Jets last year [a 21-14 Jets victory in Zach Wilson's return from a knee injury], and just seeing the way their defense played and the energy they brought, I really admired the way they played football. It helped make this an easy choice."
Part of that "easy choice" was the strong impression made by Douglas and Saleh.
"When I sat down with Joe, he said that he and Saleh are in the same category," Martin said. "I'd say they're ultra-competitive psychopaths, but classy! It encompasses me -- kind of crazy, but classy, very competitive. To play this game, you have to be a little off, nothing that you can't control six days a week, but say screw it on Sunday and let it loose."
With his brother Josh living in Brooklyn and likely to be at MetLife Stadium on those Sundays next season, Jacob Martin summed up his excitement about playing in front of him and all Jets fans.
"I cannot wait. I cannot wait. I cannot wait."