Dante Fowler Jr. has yet to prove worth the third overall selection in the 2015 NFL Draft, failing to take a snap due to injury in 2016. Can he be effective in his first year?
After discussing whether the Jacksonville Jaguars should trade for a pass rusher and with a strong case being made over at SB Nation that first-year pass rushers do not generally excel, it’s worth discussing the expectations for pass rusher Dante Fowler Jr.
Fowler, who missed all of 2015 due to an ACL tear, has yet to play a snap in the NFL and the Jaguars are forced to look to his rehab and his college days in order to project how he may do in his first season actually playing for the team in the NFL. It’s a difficult projection, extrapolating off a limited sample to gamble the pass rush on.
But it may be just what the Jaguars have to do, failing to sign difference makers in 2016 free agency thus far.
If that is the case and the Jags do not choose to trade for a pass rusher or, worse yet, decide not to select one early in the 2016 NFL Draft, what can we expect from Dante Fowler? What is reasonable? Is it as Mr. Stites suggests in his piece at SB Nation and eight sacks is the likely ceiling based on recent performance?
What I propose is less measurable and will rely more heavily the less easily measurable hurries and hits. The purpose of the leo pass rushing position in the Jaguars defense is to create consistent pressure. Hopefully that results in sacks, but it may not always fall in that line. What may be more important is how the Jags can be disruptive on each and every down.
In 2014, the Jacksonville Jaguars were alright in sack numbers but everyone knew it was misleading. The team was struggling to get consistent pressure even though they did manage to bring down the quarterback often when they did get pressure. If Fowler is the starter and expected to deliver as the leo, the sack numbers will matter less than forcing the offense to play into the defense’s hand and make mistakes.
Pressures of all kinds matter at the NFL level. This is especially true in the AFC South, which will feature second-year quarterback Marcus Mariota with the Tennessee Titans and seven-start Brock Osweiler with the Houston Texans. If a player like Fowler can rattle the quarterback, regardless if it is a sack or not, he will be helping the Jaguars.
Whether Fowler gets four sacks, eight sacks, or double digits won’t matter as much as the overall pressure he generates on a consistent basis. He was brought in to be in the face of opposing QBs on each and every down and if the sacks come, good. If they don’t and he’s still there, almost bringing him down on every play, he’s still doing his job. That’s something the Jaguars’ defense has not done consistently in years.
There’s no doubt the 2016 Jaguars will have an improved supporting cast around Fowler than 2015 would have. The additions of lineman Malik Jackson, cornerback Prince Amukamara, and safety Tashaun Gipson should all help create opportunities for Fowler.
As Justin Moore wrote months ago, we Jags fans should still be excited about Fowler. He’s unproven, yes, but he also has the potential to be something truly special. We just don’t know how special yet.
More from Black and Teal
- Jacksonville Jaguars should welcome Derrick Henry into the kingdom
- Jaguars Rumors: Trent Baalke seems to be getting respect now
- Bold trade proposal has Jacksonville Jaguars shipping LT Cam Robinson
- Jaguars News: This division rival might be making a big move
- Former Jacksonville Jaguars S Johnathan Cyprien: “New Profession, Same Standards”
Hopefully he’ll be able to put it all on the football field and prove he’s better than we anticipated when he was drafted in 2015 because if he isn’t and proves to be as mortal as his peers, the Jaguars will be in trouble.