FLORHAM PARK: Every now and again, Chris Owusu will catch himself looking around the New York Jets receivers’ meeting room, simply to take note of who’s sitting to his left, and his right.
He’ll notice a player like Brandon Marshall, one who’s made a living in the NFL with his physicality. Next, he’ll pick out Eric Decker, a wideout whose route running is second to none. Off in the corner will be Jeremy Kerley, someone who’s proven to be a weapon in the slot.
In the past, Owusu would subliminally compare himself to them-- Is he a physical guy, or more of a route runner? Is he better in the slot? The internal battle would go on and on. That was, until Owusu figured it out.
He’s not like any one of them. He’s a combination of all of them.
“I’m a guy who goes out there and does what the team needs me to do,” he said.
Since the Jets began their offseason workouts back in May, Owusu has been one of the surprise, unsung heroes in practice. The wideout is catching nearly everything thrown his way, running crisp routes and showing the ability to take the top off the defense. He’s looking, at least on the practice field, like a complete receiver. That’s something Owusu credits to additional time spent working on “football specific” drills.
Before reporting back to the Jets, Owusu worked out with trainers at Cal Strength in Northern California, and with some former coaches at Stanford. The 25 year old says he put an increased focus on improving his explosion, ability to re-route in the air, core stabilization and leg movement.
“I’m just trying to be more consistent. I want to be a more consistent playmaker out there,” Owusu said. “I know my God-given abilities and what I can do.”
The time spent putting in work off the field is now paying immense dividends on it. Owusu is earning a reputation as one of the more sure-handed targets in Jets camp, developing a chemistry with quarterback Geno Smith and showing versatility in an offense he says he’s “most comfortable” in --- During his three-year career, Owusu has played in three different offenses, but says this one fits his talents the most.
Meanwhile, off the field, he’s squeezing his 6-2 frame into the pockets of fellow receivers Eric Decker and Brandon Marshall. The two have had no problem taking Owusu under their wings.
During each film room session, Marshall and Decker will point out the little things they do on routes to create separation-- It could be something as small as a little shimmy, or slight hesitation. If Owusu sees something that Decker and Marshall do that he hasn’t seen before, he’ll ask them about it. Owusu then takes notes on it all, studies it all, and tries to mimic it all the next day in practice.
“I definitely pick their brains,” Owusu said. “It would be unwise not to, right? They’re veterans who have had so much success and have done so many great things. Whatever I see, or whatever they tell me, I keep it in the back of my head.
“I’ll say, ‘Ok, this guy got open this way. He used this much power, and did this technique.’ I really take it all to heart and it’s really helping me because those guys are so good.”
The Jets coaches are starting to take notice to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers castoff as well. When rookie second-round pick Devin Smith missed time during the Jets offseason program for the birth of his child, Owusu was given the first-team reps in his place. With Smith now sidelined again with broken ribs and a semi-punctured lung, Owusu again finds himself running with the 1’s.
“He’s been a steady player, someone who flies a bit under the radar,” Jets coach Todd Bowles said. “He’s smart, he’s deceptive, he’s quicker than you think and he’s always in the right place. Plus, he’s young. He just needs a chance to play, and he’s getting a chance to do that.”
In practice on Saturday, Owusu caught a pair of touchdowns highlighted by a 50-yard bomb past Antonio Cromartie It seems the more reps he gets, the more he seems to shine. At this moment, he’s done nothing to warrant not being on the field.
And that’s all he’s trying to do. Owusu isn’t looking much past whatever particular rep he’s on. Because the way he sees it, the best way to keep his success going is to keep living in the present.
“I’m just trying to make the most of my opportunities,” Owusu said. “Once you focus on things outside of your realm, that’s when you start messing up”
This article will also appear in Saturday’s edition of The Journal-Inquirer