Q&A: Owens ready to rebound from tough second season

An official separates Falcons cornerback Christopher Owens (21) and Eagles wide receiver Jeremy Maclin. AP

An official separates Falcons cornerback Christopher Owens (21) and Eagles wide receiver Jeremy Maclin. AP

BIRDLAND – Falcons cornerback Christopher Owens showed a great deal of promise during his rookie season in 2009.

He ended the season as the starting left cornerback and appeared on his way to a solid NFL career.

But last season, the third round pick from San Jose State, appeared to take a few steps backwards. He had a particularly rough outing against Green Bay in the divisional round playoff upset.

Atlanta Falcons' Chris Owens, right, intercepts a pass intended for Buffalo Bills' Terrell Owens, left, in the second quarter of an NFL football game on Sunday, Dec. 27, 2009, in Atlanta.  (AP Photo/Erik S. Lesser)

Atlanta Falcons' Chris Owens, right, intercepts a pass intended for Buffalo Bills' Terrell Owens, left, in the second quarter of an NFL football game on Sunday, Dec. 27, 2009, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/Erik S. Lesser)

However, Falcons coach Mike Smith, in a conversation with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution during the NFL scouting combine staunchly defended Owens. Smith noted that Owens only lost his job to Brian Williams as the nickel back because of a back injury.

Smith also noted that Owens wasn’t the only one who had a bad day against Green Bay. He said himself, the rest of the coaches and all the way down to the water boys were to blame for the Packers’ torching of the Georgia Dome on their way to the Super Bowl.

In a recent conversation with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Owens, like most players, didn’t want to use the injury as an excuse.

Q: How has your offseason been going?

A: It’s been going real smooth. I’ve just been staying in shape and now we’ve got this going on. I feel like we are back rolling pretty much.

Q: Did you spend some time back in California?

Falcons cornerback Christopher Owens with children from Project Guinness.

Falcons cornerback Christopher Owens with children from Project Guinness.

A: I spent a little time back at home. Not too much time because I didn’t know what was going to happen with the lockout so I wanted to get back out here just in case stuff got rolling quickly.

Q: What do you hope to get out of the seven-on-seven drills?

A: Just to get my feet back. Get my feet back and the camaraderie of my teammates.

Q: How did you battle through the back injury last year and are you healed?

A: You have to battle through some of the small little nicks and bruises. It’s part of the game. Now, it’s a new year. I feel good.

Q: Have you gotten over the playoff game?

A: Yeah, I’ve gotten over it. It’s time to move on.

Q: What’s next for you?

A: Now, that I’ve had two years in the program, I feel I have more upside now. Besides the fact that I’m quick and fast, I have a better understanding of the defense. I can play inside as the nickel and outside on the corner. I think that’s going to help my progression in my third year.

Q: Were you comforted somewhat that they didn’t draft at your position?

A: No, that doesn’t mean anything. I’m going to come with the same mentality every time. I’m going to give them 110 percent no matter what.

Q: Can you look to Brent Grimes’ development to help you? Do you get any help from Dunta Robinson?

A: Oh yeah. I’m learning from those guys daily. What Grimes did last year was tremendous. I’m just following in his footsteps. I’m trying to do what he did.

I know about all of the extra work that he put in and he’s been a great help for me.

–D. Orlando Ledbetter, The Atlanta Falcons beat blog

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39 comments Add your comment

nash

May 26th, 2011
5:19 am

PlanB

May 26th, 2011
6:18 am

What ever we do, we can’t let Brent Grimes get away. We went through his struggles while learning his position. Now, he is as good as any. We don’t want to train them for other teams.
Owens almost single handedly lost the game to GB last year. I hope that was just a bad day and there are no more of them left. If there are more to come then he will need to take the Chris Houston exit.

Singletary

May 26th, 2011
6:42 am

While Owens clearly muffed a couple of plays, you cannot overlook BVG’s inability/unwillingness to change strategy over halftime. Deep-playoff teams know how to re-script and show a different tactic at a moments notice. (There are a LOT of moments in the halftime locker room to present your “installed” D in a different way that doesn’t include a huge, honkin’ open space 25 yards down the field.) To quote part of the Sept 11th review and recommendations committee regarding FBI/CIA sharing of info and deductive processes, Falcons had a “failure of imagination” against Green Bay.

PlanB

May 26th, 2011
7:23 am

We seem to have a problem with both coordinators. Still don’t like the play calling of MM and defensive schemes have been lacking at times under BVG. Is MS too conservative and holding them back?

DC Dirty Bird

May 26th, 2011
7:26 am

Chris Owens development is critical to our defense taking the next step. Surely our defensive interior with be there. JA56 will be there. Decoud and WillyMo will get better as a tandem. If we can get something off the left edge and have CO or Franks step up….we may have something special this season.

mgdawg

May 26th, 2011
7:32 am

I’m suprised the guy would show his face in georgia after the green bay game. I was hoping they’d pack up all his things and just mail it to his home after that pitiful performance. Yes there are other people to blame, but that doesn’t make up for his play. The falcons would’ve been just as good playing a man down on defense.

FACTS

May 26th, 2011
7:55 am

VanGorder is a clown………..so nobody willl rebound this year!!!!!!!!!!!!!

FACTS

May 26th, 2011
8:01 am

Our DHC is really an assistant, if Mike Smith wants to keep his job he better start calling plays on D!!!!

South ga boy in the atl

May 26th, 2011
8:10 am

Hang on mgdawg. Owens was just in his 2nd yr and we were going against the best WR core in the game. There was a lack of pressure which was on the front four and I don’t think it was BVG fault when he had the correct scheme called on 3 3rd downs and Williams and a LB came completely free off the edge and let Rogers dodge a wide open sack. That’s 3 drives that should have been stopped that would have avoided 3 TD’s. The point is that there is enough blame to go around and it’s silly and miopic to place so much blame on Owens. The game is spilt milk now. It won’t have the lasting effects that a December playoff game against Dallas did. We are on an upward climb with all the correct pieces in place

Larry

May 26th, 2011
8:29 am

Simple question that demands an answer: is the Falcons defense that we saw against Green Bay in the playoffs as good or better than the one that lost to Arizona in the playoffs three seasons ago?

With 9 new starters and many draft choices devoted to the defense the last three seasons if the answer is “no” then we have a selection and coaching problem.

Personally, I predicted after 4 games last season the somewhere down the line this defense coached by BVG would cause a heartbreak when one day the offensive heroics would not be able to overcome our predictable inability to stop our opponents in the 4th quarter. We haven’t improved one iota in this regard in three seasons and it is past time we realize that BVG is wholly inadequate at the professional level.

Just what great moment on his professional resume did BVG have to warrant a DC position in the NFL?

mountain_jim

May 26th, 2011
8:49 am

Hey DLed, why don’t you ask Mularkey what he thinks about what Easterbrook, the Tuesday Morning QB, said about his sideline pass before halftime in that playoff game.

“the worst coaching blunder of the 2011 playoffs” he called it, and I agree with him.

http://sports.espn.go.com/espn/page2/story?page=easterbrook/110118_tuesday_morning_quarterback&sportCat=nfl

“Green Bay knew exactly where the pass would go! The reason corners don’t cut in front of outs all the time is that they must defend the many other patterns the receiver might run. In this case, Williams didn’t have to honor any other pattern: he was certain the play would be an out. What a botched call by Atlanta offensive coordinator Mike Mularkey! Perhaps Mularkey didn’t have his head in the game because he had spent part of the Falcons’ bye week interviewing for the Cleveland Browns’ head coaching vacancy. The Falcons didn’t show any formation or playcalling variation on offense, either. Mularkey was too busy, perhaps, with his résumé to compose an original game plan”

mountain_jim

May 26th, 2011
8:52 am

more from that link:

“Sour Coaching of the Divisionals: Green Bay ahead 21-14, the host Falcons had the ball on the Packers’ 35 with 10 seconds remaining till intermission, out of timeouts. One reason for Atlanta’s string of successes in close games is that the Falcons have Matt Bryant, a strong-legged place-kicker who entered the contest 8-for-11 beyond 40 yards. The game is in a dome, which presents ideal kicking conditions. So let Bryant launch a kick. If it’s 21-17 at the half, Atlanta is in good shape, especially considering the fourth quarter is the Falcons’ best quarter.”

AngryFalcon

May 26th, 2011
8:56 am

This will be MM and BVG’s year to prove themselves. There are no more excuses. We have enough weapons on Offense and an adequate mix of young talent and veterans on Defense. If they can’t make a noticable impact this year with the playcalling, i say it’s time for Smitty to make some tough decisions.

Im anxious to see if young players like Akeem Dent, Spoon, Dominique Franks, Meier, Jacquizz can make an impact. DOL, i havent seen any news about any of these guys in practice. What’s the deal?

PMC

May 26th, 2011
9:11 am

It’s going to take a lot of doing for anyone to feel comfortable seeing 21 out there again after the last game.

Section242

May 26th, 2011
9:22 am

I know the loss was hard but we have to remember this team was 13-3. I am a long time season ticket holder and we have had few seasons like last year. It seems that everybody wants to fix blame. Owens, Van Gorder, Mularkey but we lost to the SuperBowl champions! We were close in most of the first half of the game until 3 minutes left when re @ the 14 and going in for the score. A penalty, a sack put in in a position that Ryan tried to force the ball and was intercepted. After GB drove and scored, with only seconds left, Ryan threw a pick 6 and we went into the half 14 down. Big turn around in just a few minutes. The GB drive after half time put us down by 21 and the game was over. Van Gorder isn’t working with the 85 Bears defense. He did well with the young players that he had and we would not have been 13 – 3 without Ryan and Mularky. This team is close. The young players including Owens will continue to develop. We added an explosive receiver with Julio and if we can get another DE in free agency we should be in the playoffs again. We are building and I expect a SuperBowl sooner rather than later.

mountain_jim

May 26th, 2011
9:42 am

Yes Section242 but the final part of the big turnaround befoire half that had us totally out of the game was Mularkey’s fault, a totally bonehead unneeded play-call, the particulars of which Easterbrook rightly analysed in the link above as the worst coaching blunder of the playoffs.

Ryan’s performance bailed out Mularkey’s poor pass-schemes and unimaginative calling all season – it was due to catch up with us and that day it did.

I would hope Mularkey learned something from that.

If we have a normal season, and with these new ‘explosive’ weapons added, Mularkey better show some improvement in game-planning and variety and unpredictability of play-calling. imho,

PMC

May 26th, 2011
9:54 am

They definately overachieved given the overall talent level last season no doubt. The coaches did a tremendous job. I think the Ryan interception on the ball he forced to Roddy is a huge reason they did so much to get Julio. He had ONE receiver he really trusted evidenced by all the targets to Roddy. Everytime he had to have the yardage he forced it to Roddy.

It’s hard to take any solace that they won the Superbowl especially when they were beaten in the same building several weeks earlier. Brian Williams being out was a HUGE factor in that game.

I do think the young players learned a lot last year. I think the defense will be better. Owens is tremendously athletic. If he works hard he could play similarly to Grimes but to date, he’s only as good as that last game.

The Falcons paid so much for Jones, because they really didn’t have many players that could be trusted to catch the ball when they needed them too. Jenkins slipping and just missing a touchdown that ends up being intercepted is a microcosm of his career. Gonzalez is a great locker room guy. He’s a good player, but he’s no where close to what he was in KC. The only reliable receiver on this team last year was Roddy, and that was evidenced by the amout of times he was targeted.

Trailboss

May 26th, 2011
10:29 am

I’m not the best MMOB and I’m not downing the coache’s but to play prevent D and a 334 and we’re behind.I go to a lot of little league games and there defense coache’s make professional calls while BVG make some great little league call’s.Time for the Falcons to smell she coffee.

loyalFalcon

May 26th, 2011
10:48 am

@DLed
I think the reason TD isn’t and wasn’t to concerned about the picks we gave up is because they are going to let some free agent(starters) go. Most notably some of the O-lineman. Now, correct me if I’m wrong, but this will qualify us for compensatory picks. Which means we may get some of those picks back.

FanBase

May 26th, 2011
10:51 am

The secondary is still young and need more time on the field as a unit. I think Dunta Robinson was a great addition but keep in mind Brent Grimes, Decoud, and William Moore have not played together as a unit for that long. I think we need a veteran in the secondary.

Green Bay seems to exploit most teams by matching their 3rd and 4th receiver against the nickel corners. Against the Steelers, they basically made Troy Polamalu cover a receiver taking him away from the line of scrimmage most of time which why he had less impact.

Without QB pressure from the front 4 it will be hard for most teams to match up with GB. I believe it is critical that we get an explosive DE to help Abraham, a veteran CB, and a good season from the DT position. Without this we are just in an offensive shoot out.

Jimmy Crack

May 26th, 2011
10:59 am

I agree MJim, you could smell the stench coming from the TV on that play, while it was in progress. It was a pick six from the time Matty moved his head to look that way. There was zero chance of Ryan throwing anything but a quick out. Even a touchdown throw would have meant a blown defensive assignment and GB was playing the boundaries all the way. I will throw a little pain Ryan’s way for not remembering his own comments after a pick six of the same variety against the Saints in his rookie year. He was supposed to be famous for being smart enough to NOT let that type of play happen again. After all, how many pick 6’s on quick outs do you see the elite QBs throw after they have had a couple seasons of snaps in the league…None. You ask Matty and he will say it was his fault anyway, but you are right, Jim, that poor play call was an epic Mularkey fail. Genius I think not.

I have two words for anyone who thinks Mularkey is a football genius…Dick LeBeau.

Larry

May 26th, 2011
11:12 am

Think about it from a different perspective…

If the Falcons offense had the Packers defense led by Dom Capers last season they are in the Super Bowl. Conversely, if the Packers offense had the Falcons defense led by BVG last season they likely don’t even make the playoffs.

Any questions?

Fan

May 26th, 2011
11:38 am

If we will look at all of the games in the past, the falcons were running the same plays so GB really did not had too work much too win. This year the falcons probably will be running a three wideout out set or maybe a four wideout side. They will spread the field and make other teams chose. Now, the falcons will have about three more receivers that they will sign as free agents like that guy from fort valley with all of that speed….Matt Ryan simply did not have the weapons too perform his job with in the last three seasons. The defense will load up on free agencies so they will be fine and they will resign their own free agencies. They will be in the playoff… CO had a bad game and the coaching staff have been having one for a while..

1eyedJack

May 26th, 2011
11:58 am

Does anybody really believe that there will still be an 2011 NFL season?

opie

May 26th, 2011
12:09 pm

D-Led, I don’t blame Owens at all for the Green Bay Game. The Falcons won’t win any playoff games with this read and react defensive scheme they currently employ. You can not give receivers ten yard cushions in the NFL especially with a quarterback like Peyton Manning, Drew Brees, Rodgers and Tom Brady.

BVG gets a lot of blame in this blog but the scheme is Jack Del-Rio/Mike Smith’s Jacksonville Scheme. By the way how many playoff games has Mike Smith and Jack Del Rio won with this scheme?

Dunta Robinson is a press corner he was wasted in this scheme last year and everyone in this blog ripped him. It is the coaches responsibility to adapt the scheme around personnell. Why would Namdi Asomuha come to Atlanta and play in a zone scheme when he is a premier press corner?

ugaclassof2004

May 26th, 2011
3:57 pm

Look guys, sometimes blowouts happen. Look at it this way: New England beat the Jets 45-3 in the regular season, and then the Jets turned around and beat the Pats 28-21 in the playoffs.Same two teams, different result. Sometimes one team gets hot, and everything bounces their way.

The Falcons weren’t as bad as that 48-21 loss nor were they as good as the 20-17 victory over the Packers earlier in the year. What the loss DID showcase however was that when a game turns into an offensive shootout, our offense was really unable to match Green Bay’s big play ability.

The Falcons organization saw that and took a risk with Julio Jones in the draft. Its a risk that could prove costly, but sometimes you have to make big risks to reap big rewards. Even if the risk doesn’t pay off, I’d still rather have a team that is willing to be aggressive in order to get better than to have some team that has been stuck in a ditch for the last decade like Oakland or Buffalo. And I’ll say this about the Falcons: I think Arthur Blank, Dimitroff, and Mike Smith are hungry and I wouldn’t underestimate that. I think they’ll learn from the Green Bay loss, I really do. I think this is an exciting time to be a Falcons fan.

mountain_jim

May 26th, 2011
4:59 pm

I do agree that Smith and Blank and Dimitroff did learn – that was proven by the agressive draft for an explosive player (and maybe 2 we hope).

Now I wait to see what the OC and DC learned next season.

If there is one. :(

Colorado Bird

May 26th, 2011
7:19 pm

The defense must greatly improve. A noted and proven free agent pass rusher would help. One more offensive tackle and defensive tackle would help with depth issues. I personally like the Julio Jones acquisition now that I’ve had time to read some of his comments. If he plays to his abilities he could be just what the doctor ordered for the offense. I must mention that I believe there are some non-drafted wide receivers such as,Darvin Adams, Terrance Tolliver, Dana Sanzenbacher, and Ricardo Lockette, I hope Atlanta brings in.

Some of the guys, I would like to see Atlanta bring in also are: Joe Lefegrand/safety, Cedric Thornton/DT,
Kendric Burney/CB, Ugo Chinasa/DE, Pierre Allen/DE, Derrick Locke/RB, Zach Hurd/OT, Branden Bair/DT, Pat Devlin/QB, Ryan Winterswyck/DE, Darren Evans/RB and Steve Friday/DE.

As far as the loss to Green Bay. For me it’s over and now I want to see what adjustments the Falcons make.. Go after these guys in free agency- why not more than one? Ray Edwards/ Shaun Ellis or Charles Johnson (DE’s). Paul Soliani, Barry Cofield or Cullen Jenkins(DT’s), Jonathan Joseph, Chris Carr or Nnamdi Asomugha (CB’s), Doug Free or Khalif Barnes (OT’s)..

To Chris Owens.. It’s not so much as what you did in the play- off’s as it is what are you going to do to get Atlanta back in the play- off’s and beyond. That road has already been down once, it doesn’t have to be repeated.Besides it was the complete team that dropped the ball and not just one man.
Although I am a big Atlanta fan- the Falcons got their a__ __ kicked and out-played. I know as a fan I was extremely disappointed as I work with a Packer fan and he has rubbed in ever since that loss.

I look forward to maybe doing a little rubbing next year. GO FALCONS !!!!!!

Whopper Dawg

May 26th, 2011
8:30 pm

I am glad Owens has forgotten the last game. He needs to.

I haven’t and all of the OCs in the league haven’t either. Look for him to get picked on a lot this year.

I don’t know why TD loves those little corners. The big receivers are killing them.

Hobbler

May 26th, 2011
8:52 pm

If CO 21 is starting at nickel back next year, we will get burned again and again. To short, too slow and can’t cover. Teams will pick on our weakest link.

D. Orlando Ledbetter

May 27th, 2011
8:05 am

Angry Falcon — Dent, Spoon and Franks have been regular attendees. I don’t think Kerry Meier has been clear yet although he’s working out in the training program. Working on a Quizz update.

D. Orlando Ledbetter

May 27th, 2011
8:06 am

mountain_Jim: When Mike Smith said “everybody had a bad day.” He didn’t leave out the coaches. He approved that play, but wishes he had went for the long field goal.

D. Orlando Ledbetter

May 27th, 2011
8:11 am

loyalFalcon — That is how it works under the old system. We don’t know how that — comp picks — will work going forward.

mountain_jim

May 27th, 2011
11:10 am

Thanks DLed for that feedback from Coach Smith concerning that first-half decision on the pass.

D. Orlando Ledbetter

May 27th, 2011
11:30 am

mountain_Jim — You’re welcome.

cwltank

May 29th, 2011
12:10 pm

I agree everyone played & coached a terrible game. Any given Sunday a team can loose. Falcons were 1 game away from Superbowl. Why are so many negative comments. The receiver core has been upgraded & I think after free agency the defense & OL will be solidified. We will meet GB in the playoffs again & this time the Falcons will win!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

cwltank

May 29th, 2011
12:11 pm

By the way the offense will change, remember MM is gone……..

iron head

May 30th, 2011
10:45 pm

Seenthisb4 where you at buddy, I miss your stupid comments.

Sick & TIred Of Being Sick & TIred

June 1st, 2011
11:02 pm

I totally agree with the folks who have but the blame for the defenses lack of consistency on the defensive coordinator – VanGorder. The corners never bump the wide receivers at the line of scrimmage which is the defensive scheme not the players.

As long as the defensive scheme permits the other teams receivers to freely run their routes without any disruption, the Falcons’ defense will always be a struggling defense….bend but don’t break will not win championships.