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Can ascending LB Kareem Martin be an impact player for Giants?

Former Arizona Cardinal being counted on to ease transition to new scheme

NFL: Preseason-Oakland Raiders at Arizona Cardinals
Kareem Martin playing for Arizona.
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

In constructing their roster, the New York Giants have turned to a number of veteran free agents members of their coaching staff and front office are familiar with from previous stops. One of those is linebacker Kareem Martin, formerly with the Arizona Cardinals.

Let’s look at Martin’s potential impact on the defense as we continue our player-by-player profiles of the 90-man roster the Giants will bring to training camp.

The basics

Height: 6-foot-6
Weight: 272
Position: OLB
Experience: 4

2017 season in review

A 2013 third-round pick who had been a bit player for Arizona during his first three seasons, Martin had a career-best season in 2017. He started 10 games after getting only a total of four starts his first three years. Martin had a sack, 23 tackles and 3 passes defensed. Martin’s 75.2 Pro Football Focus grade was in PFF’s “average” category.

Giants defensive coordinator James Bettcher was with Martin in Arizona for all four seasons, one as linebackers coach and three as coordinator. He called Martin “one of the most improved players that I’ve ever been around.”

2018 outlook

Martin turned his improvement, and his relationship with Bettcher, into a three-year, $15 million contract ($7.25 million guaranteed) with the Giants.

Here is what GM Dave Gettleman said about the 26-year-old after the Giants signed him:

“When you get into free agency, in the ideal world you want a guy who is healthy and young,” Gettleman said. “Kareem is a 26-year-old guy that has some pass rush to him, has movement skills, has good instincts and just seems to be getting better and better all the time. He started as a part-time rotational guy and he built himself up to a point where he had 10 starts last year with Arizona.

“Obviously the familiarity with the system will be huge for him and I’m just very excited. Watching him on film, I think he’s got the ability to continue to improve. He’s 6-4, he’s 260, he runs a 4.75 and Bettch had him covering tight ends down the field; he’s running down the seam with these guys. We’re excited to have him.”

Throughout spring practices, Martin was used as a starting outside linebacker opposite Olivier Vernon. Third-round pick Lorenzo Carter could eventually steal some snaps from him, but Martin’s knowledge of Bettcher’s defense from their time in Arizona will make him an important player both on the field and in the classroom.

“(Adding players who know the system) always helps,” Gettleman said. “Kareem can share information.”

For his part, Martin said Bettcher runs “a fun defense” to play in and admitted his relationship with the defensive coordinator was part of why he came to the Giants.

“It’s been really helpful, especially in the transition. Coming from the West Coast to East, it can be really tough. Especially trading teams, not really knowing anyone. But having Coach Betch here and having this defense, it takes a lot of pressure off myself, to having to learn people and learning a defense,” Martin said back in April. “So, I think it’s been really helpful for myself and I think it’ll be beneficial for the defense, me being a guy that they can lean on when they have questions about the defense or any of the schemes, I’m comfortable with answering any questions.”

The Giants have gone far too long without impact linebackers. The Giants are hoping Martin will continue to ascend as a player and turn into one playing for a coach and in a defense he already knows well.