CB Dwight Lowery
Dwight Lowery's two forced fumbles at Seattle gave him a team-leading five for the season, one ahead of linebacker Calvin Pace. This rookie cornerback hasn't shown signs of hitting a wall as his first pro regular season nears its close.
"I think that when you get through a year in the NFL, obviously it's longer than any other sport that you've been involved in, especially on a professional level," Lowery said this week, "and I think it's going to help a lot. I think it's really going to help a lot.
"Everything that's gone on this year — this year isn't over yet, by any means, but you always have to look to the future. The next year, five years down the line, 10 years down the line, and then I'll look back on this time and it will be the blueprint of the kind of player that I'm going to be."
Jets head coach Eric Mangini praised Lowery's recent contributions.
"An area I think we've really excelled is the ability to force fumbles," said Mangini. "We haven't had a high volume of interceptions, but even last week, with Lowery forcing the two fumbles, that to me is a good indication of a young guy taking coaching.
"Then he forced one against somebody else, too, a couple of weeks ago. I think that's a good indication of the work that we've done in terms of pressuring the football, with a younger player being able to be that productive."
So far, Lowery has the makings to grow into an even more valuable player.
"Sometimes You Have to Fail to Succeed"
"I've heard that guys work themselves to death and it gets to a point around Week 12 or Week 13 where your body starts to break down a little bit or your mind starts to wander a little bit. But I've always been the type of person that as the season progresses I'm trying to go like this," he said while moving his hand in a steady incline. "I don't want to be one of these guys," he said, moving his hand up and down.
"I want to be somebody who's going to continue to progress and sometimes you have to fail to succeed. And that's happened a little bit, but right now I don't feel like I've hit a rookie wall and I feel like I'm playing good football."
And he is. In addition to Lowery's forced fumbles, the coaches' video breakdown has him at 58 tackles, second-most in the secondary behind S Kerry Rhodes (79) and two ahead of CB Darrelle Revis. Lowery also leads the team with 17 passes defensed to Revis' 15.
The first three of Lowery's PDs came in the end zone in a strong debut as a starter in the Jets' season-opening win over Chad Pennington and the Dolphins at Miami.
Lowery hasn't started a game since the arrival of veteran cornerback Ty Law, but he is still rotating into the base package and is still contributing in sub. And that's probably how he'll end his first regular season, against the same QB and the same Dolphins at the Meadowlands on Sunday.
He has embraced his new role, but it has also given him some perspective.
"Just looking back on it, being a rookie and having started 10 NFL games is a great accomplishment," he said. "Obviously, you don't want it to be the story of your career or anything like that, but it's a great accomplishment. It shows you the potential that you have.
Transition Game from Rookie to Veteran
"Sometimes it's got to be taken away from you or something has got to happen in order for you to better yourself and not become comfortable. That's kind of the approach I've taken. In terms of a second wind, yes, I feel like I do have a second wind. I feel like I can keep playing as long as we need to play and that's a good thing, being my first year in the league."
Mangini often talks about how the game begins to slow down for young players at different points. Lowery agreed that it's a progression, but he's had a tougher time with the mental side of the game than the physical.
"Having the ability to go out and perform on the field is something that I picked up fast," said Lowery. "The mental part of the game is something that I didn't pick up as fast as my ability to be on the field and play. I feel like the mental part is getting up there to the physical part and that's a good thing."
His improved mental acuity is only making Lowery more confident and he is conscious that he is transitioning from rookie to veteran.
"Going through it right now — definitely going through it right now," he said. "Just being on the field, I think that your awareness picks up a lot. You start to be aware of situations. You're aware of where guys should be, how a team is going to attack you and why a team is attacking you this way.
"Things just start slowing down and you start understanding things on a deeper level than when you first start. That's the goal. That's the goal as a rookie. As soon as you can get that down — obviously you have the talent to play if you're in there — I think you're going to progress as a player."