Dante Fowler Jr. was supposed to be a game changer for the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2015, but missed the season due to injury. Can he turn things around in 2016?
Todd Wash was just promoted from inside to become the defensive coordinator for the Jacksonville Jaguars. This can be viewed as a re-commitment to the Gus Bradley defensive scheme that strong resembles that of the Seattle Seahawks.
Key to that scheme is creating pressure with four defensive linemen. This was clearly a problem for the Jags in 2015 and part of that was the lack of consistent pressure from an edge rusher.
Dante Fowler Jr. was drafted third overall in 2015 to create that pressure but didn’t get to see the field due to injury.
With 2016 on the horizon, it’s time to really wonder if Fowler can be the difference maker that this defense needs. Wash and Bradley are firm believers in their scheme, with the former saying, “our scheme is not broken” after being named DC. So, can the defensive linemen get pressure?
Hopefully Fowler proves to be the answer. It’s a tough task for a first-year player to truly turn around a defense that has struggled in recent years, but it may be what Fowler is tasked with in just his first season on the field in the NFL. Wash noted that Fowler could be lined up over any of the five spots for the defense.
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As a fan, that seems like a lot of hope pinned on a young, unproven player. Certainly the Jags will go out and get help with their “mountain” of cap space and plenty of draft picks, but to single out Fowler as the key guy in turning this defense around may be a bit premature.
More than anything, the new Jags defensive coordinator will need to revamp the defense as a unit. No one player can turn the mess around and suddenly make the defense competitive. It will fall to guys like defensive tackle Sen’Derrick Marks, linebackers Telvin Smith and Paul Posluszny, and, yes, Dante Fowler to do it as a group. Whoever fills the voids in the secondary will certainly be a key piece as well.
But the Jags defense is not just one piece away from competing. It isn’t just a pass rusher away from being able to create opportunities. It needs something more to push the entire group over the top.
Hopefully Dante Fowler can be a key part of that something and hopefully Todd Wash is the right guy to get an under-performing defensive line and secondary to perform better.
Frankly, however, there are far too many questions hanging over this defense to expect a quick fix.