Dwight Lowery is having a strong training camp for the New York Jets. In fact, defensive coordinator Mike Pettine told newyorkjets.com, "Lowery is quietly having one of the best camps of anybody."
Lowery, the 5'11", 198-pound second-year defensive back, filled in for Darrelle Revis on Sunday morning while the starting cornerback sat out with a tight hamstring.
"I played the left side today as opposed to the right side where I usually play," said Lowery after the morning session. "It went well — you have to be versatile enough to be able to play both sides at the corner and also be able to just add versatility to the team with what you can do."
The former San Jose State Spartan has been faced with a different perspective before. Last season he brought his game from the West Coast to the East with the Jets as their fourth-round pick in the 2008 draft.
During his rookie season, in which he played in all 16 games, starting the first 10, he recorded 58 tackles, one interception, 17 pass defenses and five forced fumbles. But he also wanted to cut down on the plays he gave up, so going into his sophomore NFL season, he's made a few alterations to his game.
Lowery changed his uniform number from 34 to 21 in preparation for the season because he wanted a fresh start. Along with the new number, he has a more mature mindset about the upcoming season.
"The biggest thing is that I'm calmer," he said. "I'm very calm about the situation and what happens in the game because you have to be able to control it. Things are going to happen in games in your favor as a team and things are going to happen that are not necessarily in your favor as a team. You really have to keep a level head, can't get too high, can't get too low, and that's one thing that I've learned from last year about experience, that they are going to make some plays and we're going to make some plays but we are out there to win."
Lowery was pleased overall with his production as a rookie, but his expectations are higher for 2009.
"Obviously, if you're looking at it as a guy that's been in the league five years, you want to have a better season than that," he said. "But I think as a rookie and a fourth-round pick, to come in and start over half the season and get five forced fumbles, pass deflections and all those kind of things, it's definitely something I can build upon."
With the trade for Pro Bowl cornerback Lito Sheppard from the Eagles in the off-season, Lowery expects his playing time to decrease a bit. But the selfless DB doesn't feel it's essential to get the type of time he had last year to grow as a player and be productive.
"You don't necessarily have to come in and play in games to get better," said Lowery. "You can get better in practice, off-season, film study so that you are continuously progressing throughout your career."
Lowery is prepared to play whatever role his coaches give him because he knows the type of talent he has.
"If you can play, these coaches are going to get you on the field. Rex Ryan is going to find a way to get you on the field," he said. "Mike Pettine, Dennis Thurman, they'll find a way to get you on the field if you can make plays."
Lowery sees the positives of the team's increased depth rather than the negatives.
"You have to look at things that happen in your life and if they relate to you and you have to put it in perspective and say, 'OK, they brought a guy in here that's a two-time Pro Bowler and they got another Pro Bowler starting opposite him. I should learn from this,' " he said.
That's enough reason for him to elevate his expectations for his own career.
"If I'm not a Pro Bowler eventually, then that means I did something wrong because I will have worked with Revis, Ty Law, Sheppard," he said. "If I don't go to the Pro Bowl at some point in my career, I'm going to be upset."
Having that starting experience as a rookie, he'll be ready to go in if there are any unforeseen circumstances this year, along with a number of other players in the talented secondary.
"We definitely have a lot of depth," Lowery said. "Every single guy we have on the training camp roster right now can definitely come in and play at any given point. Top to bottom, there is really not a big difference…All of us can play and that's the thing that's most impressive."
Expect Lowery and others like Donald Strickland to rotate in with Sheppard at cornerback while quarterbacks look to throw away from Revis. Lowery's advice to rookie DBs coming in this season: Be ready.
"So many things happen in the course of a season. You never know," he said. "You could be the fourth corner and all of a sudden you're starting. That's the good thing with our depth, too. If a guy's banged up, then we have enough depth to be able to cope with it."
Lowery says he will be a smarter DB this season applying his cerebral skills reading offenses. In the process of catching on with the new defense he's focusing on the diminutive aspects of his game.
"As the days come and go I'm getting comfortable with not only our defense but also with understanding what offenses do to try to attack defenses," he said. "I'm not too worried about playmaking right now, those things will come and those things are what I've been doing ever since I've been playing football. It's the little things I'm focusing on now and the big things will come through the little things."
Lowery looks forward to playing a big part on defense in Friday's preseason opener against the Rams at the Meadowlands.
"It will be fun to see guys that you've been going against during OTAs to half of training camp and see them compete against other guys, see yourself go out and compete against other guys. It'll be a good testament to see where you are at," he said. "That's why they have the preseason, to see where guys fit in game situations and how they react to a game as opposed to practice.
"It's a good thing and I'm excited to see some of these guys perform."