Jags’ Owens bringing
NFL down to size

The former UH star was brought
in to return kicks but has settled
into the receiving corps

JACKSONVILLE » The Jacksonville Jaguars were running a 7-on-7 passing drill during training camp Wednesday when rookies Chad Owens and Matt Jones lined up in a three-receiver set on the right side of the formation along with veteran Troy Edwards.

It was almost comical to watch as the 6-foot-6 Jones -- Jacksonville's first-round pick -- towered over Owens, the former Hawaii standout who is 5-foot-7.

The players set, the ball was snapped and Owens ran a quick 7-yard stop pattern. Jones ran a quick out pattern. Edwards ran a crossing pattern over the middle, leaving Owens open for the short catch.

Jones has a decided advantage in physical stature. Edwards has the advantage of more experience, but the Jaguars are quickly learning what a nice catch they may have in Owens.

As the afternoon session came to a close, jaguars.com senior editor Vic Ketchman polled the assembled media about which receiver they thought was having the best camp.

When Ketchman proposed it was Owens, most of the reporters nodded their heads in agreement. No one protested or offered another choice.

Owens was drafted primarily as a kick-return specialist, but he is quickly earning attention as a receiver.

After the practice, Owens -- who was sporting an unusual monk-like hairstyle courtesy of a rookie initiation -- seemed surprised to learn he had made such an impression.

"I can't say I'm having the best camp of the receivers here," said Owens, who had 22 touchdowns (17 receptions, five punt returns) for Hawaii last season. "I'm just trying to keep up with the pack. I look up to guys like Jimmy Smith and Troy Edwards, and I just try to learn from them.

"Maybe people are impressed because their expectations may have been of me as a return man. I'm trying to give myself every opportunity I can to fit in as a receiver."

It didn't take long for Jacksonville's starting quarterback, Byron Leftwich, to figure out Owens might fit.

"He's having one of the best camps out of all the receivers," Leftwich said.

Does Owens' early success surprise the third-year signal caller?

"No, I'm not too surprised," Leftwich said. "When I saw he had 102 catches and 17 touchdowns in one season in college, I figured he could probably catch the ball. He has been impressive."

Proving himself is nothing new to the Roosevelt High graduate. He was a walk-on at Hawaii, and he said that people have always doubted him because of his size.

"I'm focusing on learning everything as fast as I can," Owens said. "With as much competition as there is here, I feel almost like I'm forced to prove something everyday."

Jacksonville's receiving corps boasts five-time Pro Bowl selection Smith, Edwards (a former first-round pick with six years of experience), Reggie Williams (the Jags' first-round pick in 2004) and Jones (the Jags' top draft pick this year). Ernest Wilford and Cortez Hankton, who both played regularly last season, also are on the roster.

Owens said having three teammates who also hail from Hawaii has eased his transition to the NFL.

"It's nice to have them here," Owens said of Jaguars linemen Vince Manuwai and Chris Naeole and running back Chris Fuamatu-Ma'afala.

"I know Vince because we played together in college and Fu was good about making me feel welcome," Owens said. "I had heard of Chris, and I'm getting to know him better. We did get to hang out some before training camp, but we're too busy to do much now. There's too much work to do."

Owens said he has been too busy working on his game to see how the beaches in Florida compare to those in Hawaii.

"I haven't even been to the beach here yet," Owens said.

Despite an impressive start to training camp, Owens understands playing time will not come easily. But like Mighty Mouse, who Owens has tattooed on his right biceps, Owens is hoping to exceed expectations.

He says he's happy with his performance as a kick returner, and he thinks special teams coach Pete Rodriguez is as well.

But Owens wants more.

"I've definitely showed some things out there," Owens said. "I think I'm showing them they can put me in certain situations, and I'll be able to get them a quick 5 or 7 yards. I'm trying to get better every day and prove again I can be a receiver."

It's a tall order, but Owens has proven before that even though he's easy to look over he shouldn't be overlooked.

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