Much has been made about the Jaguars 2016 defensive additions that include Jalen Ramsey, Yannick Ngakoue, Myles Jack, Tashaun Gipson and Malik Jackson, the team's improvement on the defensive side of the ball in 2016, and the team's 2017 additions on that side that of the ball which include Calais Campbell, Barry Church, and AJ Bouye.
Lost in the shuffle just a bit has been former 3rd overall pick Dante Fowler Jr. While he wasn't technically a starter in what his real rookie season (as most of you know he missed all of what should have been his rookie year with a torn ACL in 2015) in 2016, he did play over half the teams defensive stats.
In 2016 Fowler was up and down. He didn't show consistency or a refined set of pass rush moves. But he did show something that you can't teach -- the natural ability to impact plays with pure athleticism and desire. Fowler was very rigid in 2015, but now he feels that he is ready to have a true breakout season in what will be considered his sophomore campaign.
Based on his tweet yesterday it certainly appears that Fowler has worked this offseason on his craft and hopefully has learned at least one or two consistent pass rush moves. He went on to reflect on last season and also went on to say he believes 2017 will be special for him.
For the Jaguars sake let's hope Dante's pass rush moves are more improved than his grammar on social media.
While the Jaguars have overhauled the defense in the last 26 months, Fowler will still need to be greatly improved in his second healthy year if the Jaguars defensive front hopes to make a big leap. Even with the addition of Calais Campbell this offseason the Jaguars pass rush will need production from Fowler. As a unit the Jaguars recorded only 33 sacks in 2016 and even though that's more than 9 other teams in the NFL it is far from acceptable. The Jaguars were regularly ineffective when it came to putting real pressure on opposing QBs.
The bottom line is Fowler will need to be more consistent. He has all the tools physically to be an elite disruptor on the defensive front, but until he puts it together on Sundays people will question the Jaguars decision to take him with the third overall pick in the 2015 NFL Draft.
Personally, I would be surprised if Fowler isn't much improved in 2017. He is a physically gifted player that has shown flashes and he appears to be putting in work. If Fowler is somewhere in between 15-25 QB pressures and in between 6-10 sacks then the Jaguars will be much improved as a defense, not only in terms of getting to the QB, but also forcing turnovers - something else they have greatly struggled with over the last several seasons.
Stay tuned for more!
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