After a year of intense learning in Texans coach Lovie Smith’s Tampa 2 Defense, safety Jonathan Owens is feeling a little more natural in his responsibilities in the secondary.
Instead of just learning and processing this training camp, he is more fluid in what is being asked of him in Year 2.
“You’re more comfortable,” Owens said. “You know the hurt plays on the defense, so you can relay that message to the younger guys. You know formations. You know what people are going to give you in certain formations. It’s a lot more familiarity with the defense. It just gives you more confidence because you’ve done it before.”
Being at this level of comfort is critical for Owens, who is making the transition from off-and-on practice squad player – and is known as gymnastic star Simone Biles’ fiancé – to being a true leader and veteran in the Texans secondary this season.
Owens, a fifth-year veteran, got his first long look late last season and he didn’t disappoint, earning starts in Week 15 and Week 16. Owens only allowed one pass to be caught on him during his first start against the Jacksonville Jaguars in Week 15.
Then in Week 16, he showed up big with his first career interception and a fumble recovery to help the Texans to an upset victory over the Los Angeles Chargers. Unfortunately, the following week he suffered a wrist injury against the San Francisco 49ers that ended his season, but the Texans may have seen enough to warrant giving Owens some serious starting consideration this season.
He spent the offseason working harder than ever for this opportunity, and after the first few practices he seems ready to prove himself.
“Just being confident, man, doing my job well,” said Owens, who was undrafted out of Missouri Western when the Kansas City Chiefs signed him in 2018 and he joined the Texans a year later. “Understanding the defense and executing the game plan when given my opportunities. I’m just looking to keep building every day and get better.”
The Texans come into the season with a void at safety after Justin Reid left for Kansas City in the offseason. That leaves an opportunity opposite Eric Murray. The team spent a second-round drafted pick on Jalen Pitre, who is expected to compete for a starting spot at safety.
But nothing is guaranteed, which creates an opportunity this training camp for Owens to make the most significant impact of his career.
“Getting out there and actually getting game time on defense,” Owens said of his goals for the season. “I think it had been five years since I got to play serious defensive time and just being out there and getting comfortable again and slow your mind down and play football free. That was my goal and I’m just looking to keep building.”
He also seems to have adapted to being a team leader as well. Owens can be seen on the field, talking to the young players and helping them settle into the defense.
So far, Owens seems to be impressed with Pitre.
“He’s talking, telling us what type of plays might come,” Owens said. “He’s a really smart guy. He’s a great safety to be out there with. He’s definitely coming along quicker and developing.”