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Jonathan Owens once again ready to seize his moment

Packers safety could be called upon with Darnell Savage on IR

S Jonathan Owens
S Jonathan Owens

GREEN BAY – Jonathan Owens learned a long time ago the value of patience and perspective.

While pursuing his NFL dreams, the former undrafted safety meticulously climbed his way up from the Houston Texans' practice squad to becoming a 17-game starter a year ago.

Now in Green Bay, the fifth-year veteran has been the next man up behind Packers starting safeties Darnell Savage and Rudy Ford during the first two months of the 2023 campaign.

Still, Owens' mindset has remained the same as when he broke into the league – do what is asked, and when your time comes, be ready for the moment.

"Someone has to step up. That's pretty much what the NFL is," Owens said. "The next man has to come in and perform as a starter does. Just ready for the opportunity."

Owens' preparation was pivotal this past Sunday in Denver after Savage aggravated a lingering calf injury in the second quarter and did not return against the Broncos.

Without Savage, Owens was pressed into action. The 5-foot-11, 210-pound safety began the game as Green Bay's dime cornerback but finished alongside Ford in the base and nickel.

Owens is the most likely replacement for Savage, who was placed on injured reserve on Wednesday. Green Bay hopes to get the former first-round pick back this season but he'll miss at least four games.

"He's done everything we've asked him to do and I'm excited to see him for his opportunity to go out there and compete," said Head Coach Matt LaFleur of Owens.

"He's just a steady, calm presence I would say in the back end and on (special) teams. You know you're going to get great effort and execution from him. He's a great communicator, really good tackler."

It's not the first time Owens has been the next safety up. His first NFL start came in December 2021 after Texans starting safety Justin Reid was sidelined with a concussion.

One week later, Owens caught his first NFL interception off Los Angeles Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert with his mother, Arthurie Cannon, and wife, world champion gymnast Simone Biles, in attendance.

The well-studied Owens has ably handled any role the Packers have given him this season. In addition to rotating in on defense, Owens has played the third-most snaps on Green Bay's special teams. His three coverage tackles are tied for the Packers' lead.

"He came in here and competed and worked his butt off and really opened all of our eyes," defensive coordinator Joe Barry said. "We've given him some different roles in some different packages as well, and he's proved he's very knowledgeable. He's a great pro. I'm excited for him, even though it's in Darnell's absence, that he'll be able to go in and play some good ball for us."

Owens and the Packers have a tough assignment in front of them Sunday, as the Minnesota Vikings ride a wave of momentum into Green Bay following their 22-17 win over San Francisco on Monday night.

Both rookie receiver Jordan Addison (seven catches for 123 yards and two touchdowns) and tight end T.J. Hockenson (11 catches for 86 yards) had big games against the 49ers, who came into the matchup with a 5-1 record.

Quarterback Kirk Cousins threw for 378 yards in the victory without being sacked once on 45 drop-backs. It's a big challenge for a Green Bay defense hungry to take away the football.

"Their offensive line played really well," Owens said. "Obviously, (Addison) played really good, and he's going to be a key part of their offensive plan. Explosive but we've got to come out and everyone do their job and make plays."

The circumstances are different today in Green Bay than they were two years ago in Houston, but Owens is more than ready to aid a secondary.

It's not just him, either. After a hard-fought battle for a starting spot on Green Bay's back end this summer, safeties coach Ryan Downard talked to his entire room about recognizing how fast opportunities can sneak up on you.

Owens knows that better than anyone. He's built his career on being ready in a pinch and that mentality has the 28-year-old safety on the verge of seizing another integral defensive role.

"It just comes down to reacting and playing fast, and knowing what to do is the biggest part," Owens said. "I'm a pretty smart guy, so I always make sure I know my job and try to know what everyone has to do."

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