Amid the controversy of his off the field accusations, Chris Owens' future in Atlanta will still be determined in large part by his performance on the field. That is why 2011 represents such an important season for the young Falcons cornerback.
The third-round draft pick out of San Jose State showed much promise following the completion of his rookie season, in which he played in all 16 games and started at LCB in the final six. He also nabbed a key, game-changing interception in the final game against the Buccanneers, which proved to be instrumental in helping the Falcons towards their first back-to-back winning seasons.
But in 2010 Owens seemed as if he took a few steps back. Going into the season, Brent Grimes won the starting spot opposite of Dunta Robinson over Owens on his route to a Pro Bowl season.
Owens ended up splitting time with Brian Williams at the nickel spot for most of the season. He made a few spot starts, but was often times getting beat by his receiver on almost every play. Owens simply looked outmatched in his spot start against Cincy, lining up against the likes Terrell Owens and Ochocinco. He then was turned into a laughing stock by Aaron Rodgers come playoff time.
However, let's be fair. He was drafted in the third round, and wasn't really expected to be the sort of guy to contribute right away in the first place. Why else would the team have signed Dunta Robinson? If anything, this should give Owens extra motivation to improve his game this offseason.
So should we chalk up 2010 to a sophomore slump? According to Mike Smith in a March Q&A with D. Orlando Ledbetter, Owens should only continue to improve, and should be ready to take over the nickel spot full time in 2011 barring any sort of injury. Here's hoping we see the young cornerback fulfilling his potential next season.
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