Gabe Ward: I think it’s safe to say that a lot of Redskins fan’s scratched their head with him being selected in the 4th round simply because they weren’t familiar with him. Could you give us any insights into Martin as a teammate and player? What was his story at Indiana?
Auston Matricardi: From everything that I’ve heard and seen, Martin is a great teammate; he’s a leader, and he’s a guy that works hard. He was a team captain in his final two seasons as a Hoosier, and received a handful of academic honors over the course of his college career. Overall he seems like the kind of guy that you want on your team — just a good dude. On top of all of the on-field or locker room stuff, he also started a dog rescue with his mom about a year ago.
Gabe Ward: When healthy the Redskins have a really good offensive line. It’s anchored by Pro Bowlers Trent Williams and Brandon Scherff, and also has solid starters at C and RT. I expect that Martin will get every chance to compete for the LG spot, and, boy, do the Redskins need an upgrade there! Can you tell us if you think he can start in the league, and what his strengths are as a lineman?
Auston Matricardi: I think Martin has the ability to start in the league, especially if he’s surrounded by quality players. He’s not a terribly athletic player, but he’s big, he’s strong, and he’s smart, and I think that’ll be more than enough to get him time on the field. The one thing that he’ll need to improve on is his quickness. As I said, he’s just a ‘so-so’ athlete, and he got by with that in college because of his intelligence and his brute strength. That gives him a starting point as a pro, but he’ll obviously want to build on that, and should be more than capable of doing so.
Gabe Ward: From his highlight reel, it seems like Martin is a tough, physical player. I saw him pancake a few guys, so it looks like he has a bit of nasty in him as well. We love that over here at Hogs Haven. The Redskins run a power scheme where strength, technique, and power are important. How do you think Martin will fit into that? What kind of blocking scheme did Indiana run, and how would you describe his pass blocking ability vs. his run blocking ability?
Auston Matricardi: You hit the nail on the head. He does have a bit of nasty in him on the field. Martin should fit right into Washington’s scheme, which is almost certainly why they drafted him where they did. During Martin’s career, IU mostly ran a zone blocking scheme, but the scheme did vary a little, and he should be able to adjust to a new system. As far as pass blocking vs run blocking goes, he’s capable in both. He didn’t allow many sacks as a Hoosier, and his ability to overpower his opposition was evident in the running game.
Gabe Ward: One of the biggest issues for the Redskins as a whole, but for the offensive line, in particular, has been health. Injuries have decimated this team for the past two seasons, and the OL has been front and center in that. Do you know of any injuries Martin had while at Indiana? Would you describe him as a durable player?
Auston Matricardi: Martin is extremely durable. He played in every single game for the Hoosiers from 2015-2018 — 50 in total — starting 43 of them. He’s one of only four Hoosiers to ever play in 50 career games. Over the course of time, he became a guy that the Hoosiers relied on to be in the lineup every single week to help offset the injuries to teammates around him. By his senior year, he was the rock of the offensive line.
Gabe Ward: If Martin does get playing time, he will be tested by some of the best early and often as he goes against the defensive fronts of the NFC East. Tell us what you think his potential is. In other words, will he be an average starter? A Pretty good player? Perhaps a diamond in the rough like Andrew Norwell or Shaq Mason?
Auston Matricardi: Martin probably won’t be a Pro Bowl/All-Pro caliber player. What he should give Washington is a contender for the starting left guard position that has the potential to grow into a solid starter after getting used to playing at the NFL level.
Gabe Ward: A few years ago (2014-2015) Indiana was one of the best rushing teams in the BIG 10, if not college football overall. Of course, they had talents like Tevin Coleman and Jordan Howard. What have been the issues with the Indiana run game in the years since? Has it been lack of talent at RB, OL talent, or scheme issues? What role does Martin’s performance play in this regard?
Auston Matricardi: After Coleman and Howard, there was a drop off in talent at the running back position, but players like Devine Redding, Morgan Ellison, and now, Stevie Scott, were, and are, still serviceable. The downturn in IU’s rushing production comes from more than that. When the transition from Kevin Wilson to Tom Allen occurred, both Greg Frey, IU’s offensive line coach at the time, and Deland McCullough, IU’s running backs coach, left the program for bigger jobs, which hurt quite a bit as they were both pretty well respected. IU also changed offensive coordinators, which didn’t help. All in all, the circumstances were basically a perfect storm for a downturn in rushing production for the Hoosiers. If there was anything that wasn’t an issue for the Hoosiers, it was Martin. He was a stalwart despite everything else going on around him.
Gabe Ward: If you could use a few word to describe the player the Redskins are getting in Wes Martin what would they be?
Auston Matricardi: I’d say that the Redskins are getting a smart, strong, high character guy.
I want to thank Auston again for his time spent answering my questions about Wes Martin. I think Martin is a really interesting prospect, and I will be particularly interested to see how fast he can learn and develop. The Redskins desperately need help at LG, and though I would change nothing about how they conducted their draft, I remain skeptical that a 4th round OG is the answer. For the sake of the Redskins offense, though, I hope Martin can turn into ‘the guy’ and I hope he takes the bull by the horns and runs with it. As a formatting note, I would have liked to have included Auston in the main byline as I have done in years past, but the new editor restricts permissions to do that. This is, at minimum, a 50/50 endeavor, with the bulk of the thinking and writing coming from the people gracious enough to answer me, and I want to make sure they get their credit. I’ll likely be including this note for the rest of the series.