Leshoure was a second-round selection only a few years ago while Winn led the team in preseason rushing yards and rushing scores. So, why keep Owens - a 30-year-old back with four career starts?
“You know he gives you a little bit of a comfort level because he has a lot of flexibility, so whatever reason we needed him to go in there on third down and be a nickel protector he could do that, and certainly if we had some injuries he can run the ball as well,” said offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi. “He’s one of those guys, you know, your question about four tailbacks, he can fill that role a little bit if you’ve got some injury situations during a game. He’s kind of that reserve for every position if that makes sense.”
Owens’ spot on the 53-man roster and likely place on game-day squads is only bolstered by the above mentioned versatility. He earned his way on the team the same way he has found his way onto a roster the previous seven years – he was a standout on special teams.
Lions head coach Jim Caldwell described what he looks for on special teams coverage units prior to Saturday’s practice.
“From a coverage standpoint, you look for guys with tenacity, with speed, with a hunger and a thirst to get to the ball on every single opportunity,” said Caldwell. “You look for guys that have some ingenuity because of the fact that often times you’re assigned to a lane but there comes a time where you have to be a football player.”
Owens fits the mold and proved to Caldwell and Co. that he is still the player that used to create headaches for opponents years ago in Jacksonville.
“Tough, hard-nosed, speed, experience now, because he’s been around a bit.,” said Caldwell of Owens. “A matter of fact, his early years he was in Jacksonville, and I remember every single week when I was a head coach – and prior to – we were always talking about ‘hey, you better block number 24’, who was Montell at that time down there and number 81, who was (Kassim) Osgood.
“Those two guys were like wrecking crews. They did an unbelievable job of making plays all over the field, so your first order of business was to make sure you slowed those two ballhawks down. That’s the thing I think you find in him, he hasn’t lost that desire or thirst to get to the ball. He is also very well equipped, he has a natural low center of gravity, he has natural leverage. Not only that, he’s a great leader as well.”
Caldwell, who decides the team’s weekly captains “with some input”, believes so much in Owens that he is naming him the Week-One special teams captain.
Owens will join quarterback Matthew Stafford and Linebacker Stephen Tulloch as captains on Monday night against the New York Giants. There are no season-long captains on the squad – a decision Caldwell justifies by pointing out the team is bursting with leaders.
“I think I mentioned it yesterday that we have so many strong leaders, I believe that to narrow it down to a couple guys, first of all you’d deprive the rest of the team of their leadership,” he explained. “You look at every one of our rooms, we have veterans all over the place. Not only that, they are quality, quality men that are fine players that I do think have a positive impact on this team, so you’re going to see quite a few of those guys at some point of time rolling into that position.”