Dante Fowler Jr. still must prove doubters wrong
Jacksonville Jaguars pass rusher Dante Fowler Jr. must prove doubters wrong in year two if he hopes to have a career with an impact.
As the 2016 season slowly gets closer and closer it often seems like the pressure continues to mount on Jacksonville Jaguars pass rusher Dante Fowler Jr. The 2015 first round pick that hasn’t taken a snap yet is still capable of commanding plenty of attention across the league, which is both good and bad.
After tearing his ACL in the summer before his first season, expectations stayed high. Fowler was, after all, still young and capable of rebounding from an injury that is becoming far less daunting than it was just 10 years ago.
After a 5-11 season and major exposure of a mediocre defense, plenty of attention was turned toward Fowler and the pass rushing “leo” spot on Jacksonville Jaguars head coach Gus Bradley’s defense. Pressure began to mount and the need for a consistent, high-quality player in that role increased.
After missing out on big name defensive ends in free agency, that pressure further increased.
After waiting until the third round to bring in Yannick Ngakoue, it became clear that the Jags were pinning all of their hopes on Fowler and, due to the hunt for a defensive end in free agency and the draft, it looked like there was much less enthusiasm about Fowler than there had been just a year before.
The former third overall pick is now getting ready to enter his second season with all eyes on him and the pressure continuing to mount. It won’t be good enough to simply be an average pass rusher for the Jaguars. He needs to be great.
Dan Schmelzer at NFL Spin Zone writes:
"Fowler is still completely unproven at the next level, and while his athleticism was top-notch prior to the injury, it remains to be seen if the torn ACL will have any long-term effects on Fowler as a player.The early reports on his recovery for 2016 have been encouraging, but it is incredibly difficult to judge Fowler’s ability until we see him in real NFL game action.The talent and upside are undoubtedly real, and Fowler’s situation in Jacksonville is perfect. However, is he a legitimate impact player at the NFL level?"
That’s a great summation of just how much the narrative surrounding Fowler has shifted. It’s gone from high expectations for a dominant collegiate player to question after question about how he will have an impact in his first season on the field.
These questions are warranted. The pressure placed on Fowler is real and should be respected. What is interesting, however, is the shift to doubt over his ability after he was so highly touted coming out of college and even early into the 2015 season.
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What used to be optimism flowing out of the Jacksonville Jaguars fan base for Dante Fowler
and then, slowly, to open doubt, leading to the question:
are the Jaguars expecting too much of Fowler?
We, the fans, should be skeptical. We should be cautiously optimistic. But we shouldn’t forget what made Fowler such an enticing early draft pick and what could make him such an impact player in his first season on the field.
In order for Fowler to lay all of the doubt to rest, however, he’ll have to come out and perform early. He’ll have to show that doubting in his ability was unwarranted and that he was well worth that third overall selection in 2015.
He has the talent to do it, but like Schmelzer wrote, it is incredibly difficult to judge him until we see him in NFL game action. For now, it’s worth remaining optimistic.