Jacksonville Jaguars defensive end Dante Fowler knew he would be playing in the second half of the game Saturday night against the Atlanta Falcons.
Dante Fowler and the Jacksonville Jaguars coaching staff had a plan Saturday night. The fourth-year defensive end knew he would only see action in the last two quarters of the team’s 17-6 win over the Atlanta Falcons.
In his only game of the preseason so far, Fowler made the most of his opportunity.
"“We had already talked about it throughout the week, so I was actually prepared for it and ready,” Fowler said in his post-game interview.“Whether I am out there in the first half or second half, I am playing the game I love. Whenever I am able to get the opportunity to go out on that grass and showcase what I can show you guys, then I am going to do it.”"
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So much has gone on this past season with the 24-year-old from Florida that we might forget how solid a season 2017 was for him. He doubled his sack total to eight games in the regular season and gathered two more in the postseason.
He was part of a defensive unit that finished second in the NFL in total defense.
Many NFL players would love to have the kind of season he produced, but if you ask him he may tell you he wants more. And with this possibly being his final season in Jacksonville, he knows he will have to do more to remain in North Florida next season and beyond.
Fowler had already been suspended for the first game of the season by the NFL for violated league rules. He was then suspended for a week by the Jaguars for violated team rules (fighting with teammates).
The time off, as he said, gave him pause and time to focus on what he needs to do to be a better football player.
"“Yeah, just being able to sort things out and look at it as a learning experience and never let it happen again,” Fowler added."
The former third pick in the 2015 NFL Draft is in a position where production is key to his future. While he does not start for the Jaguars defense, his ability to rush the passer and provide depth on the edge is vital to what defensive coordinator Todd Wash is implementing with this team.
Fowler for lack of a better word has jumped all in, knowing the team did not pick up his fifth-year option. This could be a one-and-done situation.
He said he knows he needs to work on his temperament when it comes to the game. He has all-world talent, but must be able to harness it and make better decisions in the field of play.
"“You realize you have to stay calm and cool. It’s part of football,” Fowler said. “It’s crazy because I saw two or three fights that next week and they were way worse than what I did (laughs). I was alright, I need to calm it down.”"
Fowler doubled his sack total last season. Should he find a way to increase his production by four more sacks, that would place him in a position for a big payday in the offseason – whether it is in Jacksonville or somewhere else.
He said playing with that “edge” or chip on his shoulder can be a good thing that helps this defense maintain its place as one of the best in the league.
Then there are times when he needs to check himself to make sure he is playing within the system.
"“Aggressive play is good play; [that’s] what our coach would say. He would rather say ‘woah” than ‘sic them.’ We love playing with that edge. We love playing with that mentality,” Fowler said."