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Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah strives to improve 'everything' in 1st full NFL offseason

Owusu-Koramoah will attempt to improve everything from technique, to instincts, to mental preparation after a productive rookie season

Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah delivered the same expression to the same question throughout his rookie season.

The question: "Where can you improve?" 

It's asked to rookies countless times every season by their coaches, the media and, of course, themselves. Some players are able to offer a poignant answer — "my footwork," "my reads," "my tackling" or any of the other myriad elements that go into completing the difficult jump to the NFL level.

Owusu-Koramoah's answer all season was "everything," and he always took a deep breath and chuckled as he thought about all the techniques, instincts and intangibles he wanted to improve. 

His answer probably won't change as long as he's in the NFL, but when Owusu-Koramoah says "everything," he truly means it.

"Everything, just put simply," he said again Wednesday in his end-of-season interview with local reporters. "To be more in detail, just with my ability to see things faster and see plays faster. Just the ability to be able to uplift my team better, to be able to get TFLs and to be able to get up the field in terms of strength and setting the edges."

Owusu-Koramoah isn't satisfied with his rookie season, even though it was a good one. 

He finished second on the Browns with 76 tackles despite missing three games with an ankle injury and totaled four pass breakups, tied for second-most on the Browns among non-secondary players. He was impossible to miss in several games with his ability to range from one sideline to another and limit gains on screen plays, short passes and outside runs — the type of plays the Browns specifically drafted him to stop.

His draft position, 52nd overall, was considered a steal for the Browns when they picked him from Notre Dame, and he proved even more throughout the season that Cleveland was lucky to grab him that late in the draft. From the moment he stepped into the building, coaches have praised him for his meticulous preparation habits and attention to detail.

He always seemed to prove his talents as a player on the field, too.

"The sky is the limit for JOK," defensive coordinator Joe Woods said before Week 18. "He is so dynamic in so many different areas. His ability to blitz, his ability to match up in coverage and make plays in space. Throughout the season as he got more comfortable, you really saw his abilities just show up in different areas at times."

Owusu-Koramoah managed to stay sharp at all times despite undergoing several improbable obstacles that limited him from practice for short stints. 

He missed five days in training camp when he was placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list and then missed a few more days of training camp and pre-Week 1 practice when he needed stitches in his forehead due to an accident in the weight room. He also missed Weeks 7-9 in the regular season due to an ankle injury.

Any time away from practice or games are normally detrimental to rookies, no matter where they were drafted, but Owusu-Koramoah never seemed to lose a step.

Instead, he balanced the time off the field to spend even more hours on studying the playbook, studying opponents and scribbling more notes in the weekly notebooks he uses to prepare for every game. He takes pride in his note-taking skills and believes it's one of the biggest reasons why he always felt prepared when he returned to the field.

"Becoming a leader (means) you're really attentive and intuitive of the things that are around you and understanding how to tackle these things to overall help your health," he said. "I think that comes with experience, and I think this year was a good experience year to see all these fluke things happen … It's just all a learning lesson."

Teammates certainly took notice of Owusu-Koramoah's preparation and talents, too, and no one offered a heavier token of praise than his fellow rookie teammate, CB Greg Newsome II.

Newsome, drafted 26th overall, had a front-row seat to watch how Owusu-Koramoah's speed affected the whole defense. Holes for running backs and receivers closed quickly when Owusu-Koramoah was in the vicinity, and Newsome believes he would've been higher in the discussion for one of the top NFL awards had an ankle injury not sidelined him for three games.

"If he doesn't get that injury, I think we're having a debate of who is going to win Defensive Rookie of the Year between him and (Cowboys LB) Micah Parsons," Newsome said before Week 18. "He's one of the best football players I've played with, honestly. He doesn't miss too many tackles. He's going to be a beast. He's already had a stellar rookie season, but I definitely can't wait to grow with him on the field and see his accomplishments."

Owusu-Koramoah, though, doesn't believe he's close to his potential. Sure, he created plenty of big plays to watch on film this offseason, but his main focus will be geared toward watching all of the plays he didn't make and what he could've done differently. 

He doesn't see one main thing to improve to become a better player for next season. There's many things, and he plans to address, well, everything.

"The goal really is that you practice so much and train so much that once you get inside the play or the game, you don't really have to think too much," he said. "That's the goal — to study enough and practice enough to be able to know enough to just go into the game and just be free-flowing and play."

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