When the Jaguars selected Dante Fowler Jr. with the third pick in the 2015 draft, there was a huge amount of excitement around the Jaguars fan base. A big reason why there was so much excitement is because the Jaguars got their guy. I thought it was quite obvious that the Jaguars were going to draft a defensive player with their first pick whether it be Dante Fowler, Leonard Williams, Vic Beasley, or another pass rusher. The first two picks in the draft were quarterbacks and it gave the Jags the floor to pick whatever player was the highest on their board. Despite the large amount of excitement after the Fowler pick, some fans were upset that the Jags didn’t select Leonard Williams, myself included.
However, if you trust general manager David Caldwell and head coach Gus Bradley then there is no reason not to be confident in Dante Fowler. The Jaguars had the chance to select any defensive player in the draft and they chose Fowler which means he was the highest rated player on their board. It makes me extremely excited to think the Jags got who they think is the best player in the draft and someone they can construct their defense around. Last year’s first round selection of Blake Bortles was very similar, the Jaguars had the option to take any quarterback in the draft and they chose Bortles which means he was the highest ranked quarterback on their board.
Dante Fowler’s attitude toward his ACL injury has already impressed fellow Black and Teal writer Daniel Lago
"Moments after learning that his rookie season is coming to an end before it even starts, Fowler has the strength to look towards the future and keep a positive outlook. It’s hard to wrap your head around how such a young man, on the cusp of the next level in his life, can take such a devastating injury in stride."
Moving on, it is still very difficult to realize that Dante Fowler won’t play a down in his rookie season but there is plenty of reason for optimism. One big reason why is because Fowler will get the opportunity to learn behind Chris Clemons and Sen’Derrick Marks. Say what you want about Chris Clemons but he had a very solid first season with the Jaguars finishing with 8 sacks and 4 forced fumbles. He also has a Super Bowl victory under his belt and he knows what it takes to be an elite pass rusher.
Sen’Derrick Marks presents an even greater opportunity for Dante Fowler. First off, Marks knows what it takes to turn into a fantastic player. He has improved tremendously since signing with the Jaguars in 2013. In his 4 seasons with the Tennessee Titans he only had 3 total sacks, he already has 12.5 sacks in only 2 seasons in Jacksonville. Another reason why Dante Fowler is so lucky to learn behind Marks is because he also tore his ACL. Fowler can observe Marks and see how he is recovering from the injury and everything that needs to be done to return back to an elite level.
Lastly, Dante Fowler now gets the opportunity to spend a year learning the Jaguars defensive schemes and also to get stronger. It can be quite difficult for some rookies to pick up NFL defensive schemes in just one offseason because there is a such a difference between playing college football and playing at the professional level. It should greatly benefit Fowler to be able to have a year to take in all the difficulty that comes with playing at the professional level and it should make the transition much easier for him.
"I can’t wait to see what Fowler can do on the field when he does finally get there. He is a talented athlete and he has shown in his collegiate career to be durable. So this injury should be an outlier in the grand scheme of his career. Hopefully the team will see him play many productive seasons of football after missing out on his rookie season."
Keep your head up Jaguars fans, the defense will be just fine. The Jaguars had the sixth most sacks in the NFL last year without Dante Fowler and don’t forget about the Jaguars adding former Miami Dolphins defensive lineman Jared Odrick who I believe is set for a breakout season in Jacksonville. Overcoming adversity is something that makes a player and a team great and I believe this injury will help the Jaguars become a stronger and even tighter defensive unit in 2015.
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