Dante Fowler, the former number three overall pick in 2015, missed his entire rookie season due to a knee injury suffered on the first day of rookie mini camp. He has spent over a year getting back to full speed and learning the nuances of the Jaguars defensive scheme. Fowler is now fully healthy and will be the Jaguars starting edge rusher, aka LEO, in 2016.
Obviously Fowler has not proven a thing on the field in the NFL, but he has shown many signs over the past year plus in Jacksonville that have the organization and fans believing that he will be an impact player right away. In college at the University of Florida, Fowler was a force to be reckoned with, recording 15 tackles for loss and 8.5 sacks in his final season in Gainesville and was clearly the most impactful player on a defense that was loaded with NFL talent. Known for his incredibly quick burst off the edge and an impressive array of pass rush moves, he should impact the Jaguars pass rush from day one. That skill combined with his tireless work ethic and enthusiasm for the game will serve him well moving forward.
So what is a realistic expectation for Fowler in what is essentially his rookie year? I would expect Fowler to record anywhere from 7-11 sacks, while forcing pressure fairly consistently. The most important down for any pass rusher, and any defense for that matter, is third down and that will be Fowler’s true test. If he, along with several other defensive additions, are able to have an impact on third down then the Jaguars defense and team as a whole could see a huge jump in success following a season where the defense was abysmal in similar situations.
There are a lot of “ifs” for the Jaguars in 2016, but there is more than enough reason to believe that many of them will come to fruition for the Jaguars soon. If Fowler stays healthy then the Jaguars pass rush and defense as a whole will be much improved this season.