Jaguars' Owens not going down without a fight
By Bart Hubbuch
Special to The Advertiser
By Bart Hubbuch
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — If Chad Owens' days with the Jacksonville Jaguars truly are numbered, then the former University of Hawai'i standout doesn't plan to go quietly.
That much was obvious from the Jaguars' first minicamp, when Owens led all wide receivers — including former first-round picks Reggie Williams and Matt Jones — in receptions and highlight-reel plays.
Owens, whose chances of making the final roster appear slim, will get another chance to make his case this week during four days of organized on-field activities at Alltel Stadium.
"I just have to work, work and work," Owens said after the team's recent minicamp. "That's what made me the player I was at Hawai'i. I outworked everybody. That is all I'm trying to do here."
Jaguars coach Jack Del Rio certainly noticed, singling out Owens for praise after the minicamp.
"I thought he had a great start to the season," Del Rio said on the minicamp's final day. "He's showing some of the quickness and the ability to separate and the ball-catching ability that you saw last year and I think even a little more this year."
Unfortunately for Owens, the odds continue to be stacked against him in his bid to move from the Jaguars' practice squad to a spot on their regular-season roster this fall.
Although Owens' chances appeared to get a lift when Jimmy Smith, the team's all-time leading receiver, abruptly retired one day before the start of minicamp, those chances appeared to dim again last week when the team brought in veteran wideouts Randy Hymes and Troy Edwards.
Del Rio has yet to comment on those moves, but it seems obvious Del Rio and the team's personnel department didn't like what they saw from the receiving corps without Smith.
Just moments after Smith's retirement, Del Rio said the team would not add a veteran receiver. For him to change course so dramatically one week later spoke volumes about the club's lack of experience at receiver and Owens' chances of sticking around.
Owens, however, remains undeterred despite the sudden wealth of veteran competition posed by Edwards (seven NFL seasons) and Hymes (four, all of them with the Baltimore Ravens).
"We have a great football team," he said. "We went 12-4 last year, and anything you can add to this squad will make it that much better. I'm happy. You still have to go out there and compete whether you are a first-rounder or a free agent. We had guys last year as free agents starting (Derrick Wimbush). It really doesn't matter."
Nor does Owens appear down about the arrival of second-round draft pick Maurice Drew, a running back and return specialist from UCLA who looks to have the inside track for the Jaguars' return duties. Owens and Drew shared time at returner during the minicamp.
"If anything, (Drew's arrival) is going to raise my level of competition and raise my game," Owens said. "It really doesn't matter (that Drew was drafted)."
Two twists of fate involving Drew, though, could end up helping Owens.
First of all, Drew can't rejoin the Jaguars until late June because of an NFL rule regarding college graduation dates, which should allow Owens to get the majority of practice repetitions in on-field work during the next month.
Then there is the specter for Drew of a possible trial on felony assault charges — just revealed last week — stemming from an incident in Los Angeles the week before the NFL draft that could distract him from his competition with Owens.
But Owens insists that Drew isn't a factor in his thinking or his approach to the offseason program.
"I'm going to go out there and do what I do regardless," he said.
Owens, of course, didn't endear himself to Del Rio or the team's management by refusing an invitation to play in NFL Europe because of what Owens said were family reasons.
That combined with the added competition doesn't bode well for Owens, but Del Rio doesn't sound eager to get rid of him just yet.
"He's more confident in the system and where he belongs on routes and combinations," Del Rio said of Owens. "(Minicamp was) a good start for him. He can do some things really well. I don't know that he can do everything the way you might like a receiver to do it, but I think he can do some things real well. I think we'll be looking for ways to utilize the things he can do real well."
Bart Hubbuch covers the Jaguars for The Florida Times-Union.