The Jacksonville Jaguars were dealt a devastating blow only hours into the first practice of the 2015 NFL season when rookie first round pick Dante Fowler Jr. tore his ACL. It’s unprecedented and historically bad luck to see a top 3 pick go down with a season-ending injury in his first ever practice. To make matters worse, rookie mini-camp is open to the public, so Jaguars’ fans had to see their shining beacon of hope for a pass rush in 2015 go down with a nasty non-contact injury.
We wish Fowler the best in his recovery and he’ll hopefully come back stronger than ever, but how are the Jaguars going to make up for his absence? It’s an odd question to consider since Fowler hasn’t played a down for the Jaguars, but surely the coaches and front office were expecting Fowler to have a noticeable impact on the pass rush.
Luke has talked about how Chris Clemons and Andre Branch being the only two options at LEO isn’t very encouraging, but what else can the Jaguars do? They could sign a free agent pass rusher, but the options there are extremely limited and don’t inspire much confidence.
Luckily for the Jaguars, a significantly higher-upside option already exists on the team – Ryan Davis.
While he’s not a LEO in the Jaguars’ scheme, he has been arguably one of the most underutilized pass rushers on any team in the entire NFL. Rotating inside on pass rushing downs, the lack of playing time Davis got along the defensive line last year was borderline criminal. Pro Football Focus gave Davis an 8.1 “Pass Rushing Productivity” rating last year, a metric that measures pressure created on a per snap basis with weighting toward sacks. That rating was good for 9th among all defensive tackles in the NFL, even though Davis only played on 156 passing snaps (the 6th lowest number of snaps among defensive tackles)!
The Jaguars will probably still be hurting for an edge rushing presence in 2015, but the combined interior pressure of guys like Ryan Davis, Sen’Derrick Marks, and the newly acquired Michael Bennett should help alleviate some of that pain.
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