After years on the practice squad and in the background of his fiancé’s success, can this Texans safety carve out a starting role for himself in 2022?
Last year’s Texans team was lackluster in many ways. One of which was the safety group. While Justin Reid provided solid play, Lonnie Johnson Jr. and Eric Murray were disappointing. Now that Reid is gone most point to the addition of Jalen Pitre as his replacement, which is definitely true. Pitre was drafted to be the next Justin Reid, and hopefully better. But, there’s another safety who I believe will be an excellent compliment to Pitre in 2022.
An Unlikely Opportunity
Jonathan Owens is most prominently known for being the fiancé of gymnastics superstar Simone Biles. While he is an NFL player, most didn’t recognize Owens by his profession. After going undrafted out of Missouri Western in 2019, Owens signed with the Cardinals before being waived and picked up by the Texans. He then spent the next two years primarily on the practice squad while briefly being on the roster for a handful of games on special teams.
The 2021 season served as a big opportunity for Owens. After being thrust into the starting role for two games, he shined with an interception, recovered fumble, and eighteen tackles. His first start came against the Jaguars where he allowed just one catch. However, he had an even better game in his second start against the Chargers. Owens recorded a 91.4 Pro Football Focus grade, 90.0 coverage grade, and allowed 0 catches, all first among safeties for the week. Sadly he got injured and those were the only games he got to start. But in limited playing time, Owens was the Texans third highest graded defensive player according to PFF behind only DE Jonathan Greenard and CB Tavierre Thomas.
A Texans Starter In 2022?
2022 will likely be the biggest shot Jonathan Owens will get. Justin Reid leaving Houston leaves a big hole at safety, and although Jalen Pitre was added through the draft, Pitre primarily played in the box and slot at Baylor, unlike Reid who was up top most of the time. While Pitre will likely play deep as well, a lot of those snaps could go to Owens. He at least will get an opportunity. After showcasing what he could do last year it will be hard to imagine Lovie Smith not giving him a chance to prove himself in 2022, especially since he fits a position of need.
At twenty-six, Owens is already in his prime, and has been putting in work over the off-season. Owens said that he wants
“to get a little bigger, a little stronger because I felt a kind of grown man’s strength in the games… Be quicker with my eyes, quicker run-pass reads so that I can play faster.”Via Texanswire’s John Crumpler.
Jonathan Owens ran a 4.43 at his pro day in 2018 and recorded a 43 inch vertical. Him getting bigger and stronger and adding to that elite speed and athleticism is very intriguing. Playing physical, and being able to cover a lot of ground are two of the most important traits of a good safety.
The only reason for concern with Owens is his limited playing time. While he showed just how good he can be when given the chance, two starts in three years is a little worrisome. We’ve only gotten to see a snapshot of Owens, and while he played well, having him start an entire season could lead to some potential issues with his game that we hadn’t noticed before. However nobody knows Jonathan Owens strengths and weaknesses better than Owens himself. If he can put in the off-season work he speaks of, then he will be as set as ever to break out in 2022.
If Owens can continue to improve his game and show what he can do in training camp, then Texans fans should expect to see a lot of him in 2022. Owens combined with Pitre, Derek Stingley Jr, Tavierre Thomas, and Desmond King, could lead to one of the NFLs best young secondaries.
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