It has taken more than five years, but David Martin is finally living up to expectations as a tight end who was converted from receiver as a rookie.
As such, the perennial injury-prone backup has moved ahead of Bubba Franks as the team's top tight end - at least in a statistical sense. Martin has 15 receptions and two touchdowns through seven games, compared to 12 and zero for Franks.
"David is starting to do things that I always thought he could do, but he was never being able to stay healthy," offensive coordinator Jeff Jagodzinski said.
Jagodzinski was Martin's tight ends coach with the Packers from 2001 to '03. They reunited this year when Jagodzinski, who had been fired after the 2003 season and coached the next two years with Atlanta, was brought back to be first-year head coach Mike McCarthy's right-hand man for the offense.
Of Martin's first five years in the league, the sixth-round draft pick out of Tennessee played a full season only once, in 2003. He missed a total of 14 games because of a litany of health reasons but hasn't sustained an injury of consequence this season. Martin took a shot to the jaw near the end of the Packers' 31-14 win over Arizona on Sunday, but he said afterward that he would be OK for this week.
"It feels like it's coming together a little bit," Martin said. "I'm trying to get the confidence of (quarterback) Brett (Favre) and the coaches, and that's really what it's all about. Try to get some more plays."
Martin, who will be an unrestricted free agent after this season, is on pace to surpass his career-high numbers of 27 receptions and three touchdowns from last season. Both of his touchdown grabs came in the last two games. Martin had four catches Sunday for a season-high 48 yards, 5 short of his personal best.
The contributions of Martin in the passing game have been vital because the Packers have been shorthanded at receiver the last three games. Robert Ferguson suffered a season-ending foot injury in Week 4. Koren Robinson received a one-year suspension as a repeat offender of the league's substance-abuse policy two weeks ago. Rookie standout Greg Jennings was out Sunday with a sprained ankle.
"(Top wideout Donald) Driver is almost out there by himself. It's a young group (of receivers) out there," said Martin, who's often split out in three-receiver formations. "I think with having a veteran group at tight end, it was our job to step up and make plays."
The versatile Martin also has become a cog in the Packers' steadily improving rushing attack. He's periodically lined up at fullback on early downs. Martin could get more snaps there Sunday at Buffalo because starter Brandon Miree likely will be out with an elbow injury, which leaves declining veteran William Henderson as the only healthy fullback on the roster.
"Whatever happened in the past (with Martin), I did not see that. I really don't," McCarthy said. "I always judge people and players (by) my interaction with them. He's a heck of a football player. I'm glad he's on our team."