Each year, we run a series of post called "90-in-90" here at Niners Nation. The idea is that we'll take a look at every single player on the roster, from the very bottom to the top and break them down a few different ways. This is to help give everyone a basic understanding of a roster. Of course, this roster will change, and some days we'll have more than one so it's not strictly one per day but Fooch is a crazy person who manages this blog with no rhyme or reason and it's worked so far. Who am I to argue?
The San Francisco 49ers invested a third round pick in Marcus Martin a year ago. He was coming off a knee injury that cost him in the draft, but the 49ers added him as a long-term investment. The team parted ways with center Jonathan Goodwin, leaving a void in the middle of the team's offensive line. Daniel Kilgore signed a contract extension, and was viewed by most as at least a short-term replacement.
Martin arrived as a guy who could play both center and guard. However, his rookie year got off to an inauspicious start in the preseason. Martin suffered a dislocated kneecap in the team's third preseason game, and missed the team's first seven games. However, he was ready for Week 9 following the team's bye, and was much needed. Kilgore suffered a lower leg fracture in Week 7 against the Denver Broncos, costing him the rest of the season.
Martin immediately moved into the starting lineup following the bye. He played eight of the final nine games, missing Week 15 with a knee issue. I don't believe the knee issue was related to the dislocation, but I am not entirely sure. Whatever the case, he played a majority of the season as the team's starting center.
Martin struggled in his rookie season, which is not exactly a shock. He had some solid performances, but they were often overshadowed by struggles. I can't imagine he benefited from the overall struggles of the team's offensive line, but clearly he had to do a lot of growing in 2014. Alex Boone struggled plenty at right guard early in the season, but he settled down and by the time Martin was in the lineup, Boone was doing fairly well. I bring that up to suggest that we can't just blame this on anybody else. Boone handled some of the pre-snap work, including the indicator for the snap.
The team has made changes on the coaching staff, so that opens the door for potential adjustments both in style of blocking, and in who is commanding what from the line before the snap. This makes the center position a big one to track heading into training camp.
Why he might improve:
He was a rookie who was thrown in the deep end, so to speak. Daniel Kilgore was playing some very solid football and if he had remained healthy, I really don't think he was losing the job last year. However, with Kilgore still rehabbing his leg injury, it opens the door for Martin to build on his rookie season. He is handling first team work in OTAs, and will likely handle it through the rest of the offseason workout program. This should provide some kind of boost to the now second year offensive lineman. He was viewed as very talented coming into the draft, so a half season in the weeds would hopefully mean a step forward.
Why he might regress:
We can't say he will ever fully adjust to the NFL. I would like to think he will, but there are no guarantees. Technique refinement and general consistency were two things he had to work on as he moved up to the NFL. Any regression would come with inability to build on those areas.
Odds of making the roster:
There is no question he is making the roster. The real question is if he will be the team's starting center in 2015. Kilgore's continued rehab means this is more likely than not, but we will get a better handle on this when training camp opens. If Kilgore is back practicing at the start of camp (or at least fairly early), it becomes a fascinating competition. Martin is viewed by many as the more physically gifted player, but that does not mean he will win the center competition. If Kilgore and Martin are both competing for the job in August, it really could be a toss-up. The team would want Martin to impose his will on the competition, but Kilgore is no push-over. Tie might go to Martin, but who knows if such a competition would result in a tie.
On a side note, there has been some discussion about the loser of the Martin/Kilgore competition competing at left
tackle guard. Given that Brandon Thomas is likely to end up handling first team reps in training camp, I would be surprised if Kilgore or Martin gets enough guard reps in camp to impact that competition.