Dante Fowler Jr. should be out for the entire 2015 season. The 2015 NFL Draft first round pick was arguably the best player available in this year’s draft and he fell to the Jaguars at third overall, being the first player taken who wasn’t a quarterback.
Now, he’s going to struggle to make it onto the field.
We feel for Dante Fowler and wish him a speedy recovery.
But with the NFL being a business and the Jaguars a part of it, we have to ask, “where does that leave the Jaguars?”
The Jaguars enjoyed success rushing the passer last season, successfully sacking the opposing quarterback 45 times. Those solid sack numbers hide the fact that the Jaguars failed to create consistent pressure, though. Per Pro Football Focus, the Jaguars only managed 38 QB hits and 125 hurries. Those were numbers the Jaguars were hoping to improve upon by brining in a top pass rushing talent, hence the selection of Dante Fowler third overall in the 2015 NFL Draft.
Now, they have an injured player to ride the bench for the year.
So, how can the Jaguars succeed using an outside rusher in 2015?
Right now, Chris Clemons seems to be the top LEO rusher for the Jaguars. He brings experience and success at the position in Gus Bradley’s defenses both with the Jaguars and with the Seattle Seahawks. He’ll figure to be a prominent part of the defense once again after racking up eight sacks, five QB hits, and 20 hurries in 2014.
We also must keep in mind that Andre Branch could still be a productive part of the pass rush from the outside. He totaled three sacks, three hits, and 11 hurries in 2014.
Both Branch and Clemons should see increased time. What hurts is that the Jaguars’ LEO position hasn’t been all that productive, with Clemons finding some late season success. The defensive tackle rotation has generated decent pressure, led by Sen’Derrick Marks. The Jags really could have used a presence like Fowler on the outside, providing consistent pressure each and every snap.
If Clemons and Branch are the answer for the Jaguars after losing Fowler, I worry about the 2015 season and the success that the team may have on defense. Part of the big overhaul this offseason was to bring in a top pass rusher and now the guy the team targeted and brought to Jacksonville will not be able to play. The Jaguars may enjoy similar numbers to last year, but it won’t be an improvement and the team was hoping they would be able to be a bigger pass rushing threat going forward.
That’s a tough break and while it’s nice to think that we aren’t missing anything because we’ve never really had him, losing Dante Fowler hurts. He could have done something special with the Jags, but instead he’ll have to learn from the sidelines for a year.
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