FLORHAM PARK, N.J — It has been quite the training camp for Chris Owusu as the New York Jets wide receiver has turned heads with some very strong performances in early August, only to miss the next week with a concussion. Now this week, he gets a chance to perhaps show if the hype matches reality in the Jets third preseason game at the New York Giants.
But before the concussion, Owusu was one of the top performers in training camp and was looking the part of someone set to make the 53-man roster. He was making catches and wasn’t just being a deep threat but was willingly going over the middle as well. Most importantly, he was holding onto the ball and staying healthy.
Signed by the San Francisco 49ers as an undrafted rookie free agent in 2012, Owusu has never played a full season as he has just just 22 games and 30 receptions in three years in the NFL (20 of those receptions came in 2013). But he has talent and speed and big-play ability. When he was released by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers last fall, the Jets and former general manager John Idzik jumped on him. He had potential, the most dreaded of words in pro sports.
Potential, at least a few weeks ago, was finally being realized for Owusu.
In training camp, especially in the early part before the concussion, Owusu was lining up against Darrelle Revis during many of the reps. The fact that he was making some plays against not just the top cornerback on the team but one of the best in the league is a testament to his growth as a player.
“It’s tough. He’s a top, first-class corner. You have to bring your A-game every time. It’s fun to go against him every day. You have to adjust to patience, adjust to his strength. It makes you better. If you don’t bring your best, he’ll get the best of you,” Owusu told Metro two weeks ago.
He called it a “confidence booster even if you can get one catch on him.” Owusu did that more than once before the concussion sidelined him.
There was always a reason to get excited about Owusu, who was also a track star in high school before playing college football at Stanford.. At the NFL Combine in 2012, he ran a 4.36 time in the 40, tied for fifth best that year.
But a history of concussions kept him from being drafted, this despite a solid college career and no character concerns. But he’s bounced around with the Jets now his fourth team in as many years.
Last season, he finished with catches in several games, including a 36-yard reception in a Week 17 win at the Miami Dolphins. He also was concussion-free with the Jets.
“It’s something where you love to end the season in a good, positive way. But with new coaches, you want to come out and – we’re all starting over with a new offense, a new defense, new special teams,” Owusu said. “You always want to put your best foot forward. I think it is a testament to our receivers.”
This offseason, he focused on putting on some size – he’s reluctant to say how much muscle mass he added but said simply “Power leads to more speed. So I tried to work on my explosive movements as well, working on football-oriented movements in the same way. Even working on your eyes.”
Yes, that’s right, his eyes. Owusu left no stone unturned this offseason in a bold effort to make the Jets roster with a wide receiver corps that is as deep as any the franchise has had in recent years. He’ll get a shot this Saturday night at the Giants where Owusu might be able to suit-up for his first time in preseason.
“The eyes track the ball. Eye movements, a lot of baseball players do that. I did some, tracking the ball, your eyes tracking the ball,” Owusu said. “Being consistent with that. Not eyes exercises but really tracking and watching it. It’s been helping me out there.”