By Tony Grossi | ESPNCleveland.com
(One in a series of Browns Spotlight articles brought to you by North Olmsted Chrysler Jeep Dodge Ram.)
Chris Owens, one of the contenders for a starting cornerback job with the Browns, experienced culture shock when he joined his new team as a free agent from the Atlanta Falcons.
“From the dirty south to Cleveland? It is a big difference -- the city, the team,” Owens said after a minicamp practice last week. “It’s a younger team. I think it’s a great opportunity. We’re rebuilding and that’s always fun.
“Back in Atlanta, the team was, way different. We had veterans like Tony G (Gonzalez). We had Roddy White, we had Matt (Ryan). The locker room was different back there. Now I come in this locker room as one of the eldest in the secondary.”
|Chris Owens Dejak/AP|
With four NFL seasons in the books, Owens is the senior member of the Browns’ secondary in experience. And at age 26, he is the oldest of the defensive backs, beating safety T.J. Ward by 11 days.
Another major difference is the Browns are a team searching for a winning season. The teammates that Owens left behind in Atlanta made the NFC Championship Game last season and expect to contend for the Super Bowl this year.
Owens, a third-round draft pick by the Falcons in 2009, made 12 starts at cornerback in his four seasons in Atlanta. With the Browns, he is in the mix with Buster Skrine and rookie Leon McFadden to start at the cornerback spot opposite Joe Haden.
“Right now at my career, I’ve been to the playoffs three of the past four years. I started two years ago (in a playoff game) vs. the Giants, and I’ve grown as a player. I know what I’m capable of, I’ve just got to go out and prove it. So now I’m at the proving stage,” Owens said.
With Atlanta, Owens competed twice a year in the NFC South against the Carolina Panthers, whose offense coordinator, Rob Chudzinski, is now the Browns’ head coach. Chudzinski’s familiarity with him resulted in the Browns signing Owens to a one-year deal in free agency.
“He has good feet, good mirror skills and is a competitive guy,” Chudzinski said. “That’s the thing about that group of corners that I see. Those guys are a competitive group.”
At minicamp, Owens split time with Skrine with the first-team defense. Rookie Leon McFadden is also in the mix.
All three players are in the 5-9 range in height. Skrine has two years of backup and nickel duty with the Browns. McFadden was the new management regime’s third-round draft pick. Owens is the outsider, but brings more experience to the table. This will be a competition to watch in the summer.
“You win positions in training camp,” Owens said.
Meaning, the competition will heat up as surely as the temperatures in July and August.
|Tony Grossi covers the Browns for ESPN 850 WKNR, ESPN 1540 KNR2 and www.espncleveland.com. |
He has covered the Browns with distinction since 1984 and is one of 46 voters for the National Football League Hall of Fame. Email your “Hey Tony” questions to email@example.comFollow Tony on Twitter @tonygrossi
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