As the Jaguars prepare for the start of the league year in mid-March we're stuck in a bit of a dead period in terms of actual football activity. Sure, the Jaguars are making headlines with announcements about the removal of the tarps from EverBank Field, new uniforms, and cheaper concessions, but in terms of actual football the cupboard is pretty bare.
So, that got us thinking . . . what the heck should we write about on the football side of things.
I decided to take a look at three players that should see increased roles for the Jaguars in 2018.
So, let's get to it!
1. Dante Fowler Jr.
Fowler has been a rotational pass rusher for the Jaguars during the first two years of his career. Of course, he would likely be further along at this point has a torn ACL not ended his rookie season before it began. In 2016 and during the 2017 offseason Fowler made more headlines for his antics off the field that he did for his play on the field. In 2016 he recorded just four sacks. He followed up his difficult first season on the field with an offseason of foolish blunders off the field. Not many had confidence in Fowler entering the 2017 season. But something clicked for the Jaguars young pass rusher. He recorded 10 total sacks (two in the playoffs) in 2017 and was a key cog on one of the best defensive lines in football.
But Fowler should see a much bigger role in 2018. He was on the field for just 581 total snaps in 2017. The two players ahead of him on the defensive end depth chart, Calais Campbell and Yannick Ngakoue, tallied 984 and 920 snaps respectively. The biggest difference here is that Fowler was hardly used on base downs. He totaled just 114 snaps in run defense last season, third amongst Jaguars defensive ends. He's likely to see an uptick in snaps both in the Jaguars base defense and in pass rushing situations.
He enters the final guaranteed year of his rookie deal and will be looking to prove his worth to the Jaguars and the rest of the NFL. If he impresses this year, the Jaguars could elect to pick up Fowler's fifth year option, sign him to a long term deal, or let him test the free agency market. Either way Fowler will look to make the most of his snaps in 2018 on his way to a big pay day.
2. Corey Grant
Corey Grant has been a dynamo for the Jaguars when given the opportunity over the last two seasons. He hasn't had much opportunity, buried behind high draft picks and free agent acquisitions on the running back depth chart. But speed kills in the NFL and Mr. Grant has speed to burn. During the 2017 season Grant was called upon to handle two fake punts and was able to get big yardage for the Jaguars both times. In the AFC Championship Grant had a dominant first half, catching 3 passes for 54 yards against the Patriots defense. Sadly, his number was not called upon in the second half and the Jaguars offense floundered late. Going back to the 2016 season, Grant was able to have a big time day against the Colts in the season finale, racking up 122 yards on 18 carries. His impressive performance over the last season plus is more than enough to garner more playing time.
Now, Grant won't likely become a guy that touches the ball 10 times a game. But should he be a gadget player that the Jaguars use to create space and keep defenses honest in nearly every game they play? Yes.
3. Blair Brown
The Jaguars 2017 5th round pick was forced into action during the 2017 campaign due to injuries at the linebacker position. After a less than stellar training camp and preseason, Brown was able to step in and play well when his number was called upon during the regular season. He totaled just 67 snaps in 2017, but could see a much bigger role with the team in 2018. Paul Posluszny may have played his last down as a Jaguar, which would clearly open the door for Brown. Even if Posluszny sticks around in 2018, Brown could see a larger role as the Jaguars phase their aging linebacker out. And Brown has exactly what the Jaguars defense covets: speed.
Stay tuned for more!
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