Kansas City Chiefs: Josh Martin

ST. JOSEPH, Mo. -- It doesn't take a passionate Kansas City Chiefs fan to know they have a pair of Pro Bowlers at outside linebacker in Tamba Hali and Justin Houston and that they drafted another pass rusher in the first round this year in Dee Ford.

Hali had plenty of praise for yet another edge pass rusher, this one far more unsung. He's Josh Martin, who joined the Chiefs last year as an undrafted free agent from the Ivy League. Martin spent much of last season on the Chiefs' practice squad and then played in five games, mainly on special teams, after being promoted to the active roster.

The Chiefs kept Martin as a developmental prospect all season because they saw potential in him as a pass rusher. They're still developing their pass rush packages but unveiled one Thursday that featured Martin along with Hali and Houston.

Another had Ford with Hali and Houston. Defensive coordinator Bob Sutton may soon unveil one with all four players in the lineup.

"We've got a fourth guy," Hali said. "Putting all of us in there, we all love rushing. Coach Sutton is the one who's going to call it. We just have to have the will and desire to come off the ball and cause havoc in the backfield."

The addition of Ford certainly doesn't help Martin's chances of making the Chiefs for a second season, but the Chiefs won't relinquish a player they feel is progressing. So a strong preseason showing is important for Martin. The Chiefs play their first exhibition game Aug. 7 against the Cincinnati Bengals at Arrowhead Stadium.

"Josh and I worked together this entire offseason," Hali said. "We went to California. We ran the sand dunes. The kid is gifted. He's very fast, very strong, very smart. I mean, he went to Columbia. He can do it all. It's just a matter of opportunity, getting his chance to rush the passer. Then he can prove it."

Rookie report: LB Josh Martin

February, 19, 2014
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Linebacker Josh Martin

How acquired: Signed off Chiefs’ practice squad on Nov. 30.

2013 season: The Chiefs saw enough ability in Martin, who originally joined them as an undrafted free agent from Columbia, to keep him around all season. Martin made the roster to begin the season, was released and placed on the practice squad after three games, then promoted to the active roster for good on Nov. 30. Martin played mostly on special teams until the final game of the season, when the Chiefs rested many of their starters. Martin had five unassisted tackles that day against the San Diego Chargers.

Looking ahead: The 245-pound Martin will have to add some weight if he’s ever going to survive as an outside linebacker in the NFL. He’s still a developmental player and a long shot even at that. But he displayed enough ability for the Chiefs to keep him around for another offseason, training camp and preseason to see if he’s made considerable progress.
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Today’s look is at linebacker, where the Kansas City Chiefs are in good shape with three Pro Bowl players.

Roster (12): Tamba Hali, Alonzo Highsmith, Justin Houston, Robert James, Derrick Johnson, James-Michael Johnson, Nico Johnson, Akeem Jordan, Josh Martin, Dezman Moses, Ridge Wilson, Frank Zombo.

Potential 2014 free agents: James, Jordan and Zombo.

The position: Hali, Houston and Derrick Johnson went to the Pro Bowl as legitimate choices. On the outside, Hali and Houston are top pass-rushers and Houston in particular has a strong all-around game. Johnson doesn’t get as much attention because he doesn’t make a lot of game-changing types of plays but from down to down he is about as good as they come on the inside. Zombo started five games as a replacement on the outside when Houston or Hali were out with injuries and did an adequate job. Age is becoming the biggest enemy here. Johnson will turn 32 in November and Hali 31 in the same month. Neither showed signs of a decline in 2013. Jordan did a nice job on running downs as a free-agent acquisition last year and was one of the Chiefs’ better special-teams players. The Chiefs drafted Nico Johnson in the fourth round last year to eventually start at the inside spot next to Johnson. He played little as a rookie but could wind up as the starter next season if the Chiefs don’t re-sign Jordan. The Chiefs liked Martin, an undrafted rookie last season, as a developmental prospect.

The Chiefs should keep: Hali, Houston, Derrick Johnson, Nico Johnson, Jordan, Martin and Zombo.

The Chiefs should dump: Highsmith, James, James-Michael Johnson, Moses and Wilson.

Free agency/draft priority: When it comes to the draft, the Chiefs need to have their eye on players who could eventually replace Johnson and Hali, though this certainly could wait another year. Depth is adequate but the Chiefs will need to be busy in free agency if they don’t re-sign Jordan and Zombo. Depending on Nico Johnson’s progress, they might need a starting inside linebacker if Jordan doesn’t return.

Chiefs rookie update: Defense

September, 3, 2013
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Nico Johnson Peter Aiken/Getty ImagesThe Chiefs' Nico Johnson was making a hefty impact before suffering an ankle injury.
Earlier I posted some thoughts on the progress of the Chiefs offensive rookies and where I thought they fit in as the regular season begins. Here, I talk about the five defensive rookies:

  • Nico Johnson, fourth round, inside linebacker. Johnson was playing well and appeared on track to become a starter at some point this season. He showed some nice instinct and the ability to shed blocks and make tackles in the running game. Then he suffered a high ankle sprain. He hasn’t played or practiced since. His shouldn’t be an extended absence but any practice time missed by a rookie is a lot of time. At this point, it’s reasonable to count on Johnson for little more than special-teams help for the first half of the season. Longer term, he should have a spot as the starter at the inside position next to Derrick Johnson.
  • Mike Catapano, defensive end, seventh round. Catapano was moved recently back to his more natural position as a defensive end. The Chiefs had played him at linebacker since drafting him.Catapano is undersized at 270 pounds so his main contributions as a rookie should come on special teams. But the Chiefs aren’t deep on the defensive line, so an injury could force him into the playing rotation. Catapano has showed some pass-rush skills. He was with the first team early this week as a pass-rusher in the nickel defense in place of Allen Bailey, who missed practice because of the death of his father.
  • Bradley McDougald, safety, undrafted. McDougald won his roster spot, beating out veteran Tysyn Hartman, with solid all-around play. Hartman may have been better against the run but McDougald was better in pass coverage. As the fifth safety, he won’t play on defense except in case of injuries ahead of him.McDougald’s roster spot will be in jeopardy when the Chiefs activate Sanders Commings off injured reserve. A fifth-round draft pick, Commings was playing a lot in the nickel defense during offseason practice. He broke his collarbone in the first practice at training camp and hasn’t played or practiced since. He was placed on IR Tuesday.
  • Josh Martin, undrafted, linebacker. Martin came to the Chiefs as the ultimate long shot. He played in college at an Ivy League school, Columbia, and plays a position inhabited in Kansas City by three Pro Bowl players. But Martin made an impact in training camp. He displayed nice instincts in the running game and pass-rush skills, as well. He showed enough of both the Chiefs decided to keep him on their active roster as a developmental player.Martin probably won’t play as a rookie unless it’s on special teams. But he’s already pulled the ultimate upset by making it this far.
  • Marcus Cooper, cornerback, waivers from San Francisco. Cooper was drafted by the 49ers this year in the seventh round but was released over the weekend. Cooper was mostly a bystander during his only practice so far with the Chiefs after arriving on Sunday night. But he will get a look to be the fourth cornerback. The Chiefs went through several candidates unsuccessfully for that fourth cornerback spot and their failure to find one was a big reason they claimed Cooper.

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