Proving Ground: Akwasi Owusu-Ansah

Ninth in a 10-part series focusing on young non-starters who have a lot to prove during training camp (series):

The Cowboys believe Akwasi Owusu-Ansah has the potential to develop into a playmaking free safety, but they plan to be patient as he makes the transition from Division II to the NFL.

But it’s uncertain how much the fourth-round pick will get on the field during training camp and the preseason.

Owusu-Ansah didn’t participate in organized team activities or minicamps because he was recovering from surgery to correct a shoulder injury that he played with for most of his senior season at Indiana (Pa.). The Cowboys hoped he would be cleared for full participation by the beginning of training camp, but a source said he might not be ready until the second week of camp and would be worked in steadily.

One of the things that most impressed the Cowboys about Owusu-Ansah during the pre-draft process was his football intelligence, a pleasant surprise after he played in a simplistic scheme in college. Wade Phillips said Owusu-Ansah displayed a better grasp for defensive concepts during his visit to Valley Ranch than several safeties selected before him.

The 6-foot, 207-pound Owusu-Ansah has phenomenal physical tools. He was clocked at 4.32 in the 40 at his pro day and has the quickness and change-of-direction ability to be considered a cornerback prospect by many NFL teams. He was a dominant return man in college and has a chance to contribute in that role as a rookie.

Owusu-Ansah will be playing catch-up once his shoulder is fully recovered. At that point, he’ll try to prove he’s ready to help the Cowboys win now instead of spending his rookie season as the NFL equivalent of a redshirt.