If you are expecting Dante Fowler to come out from day one of the 2016 NFL season and light the world on fire, maybe you should temper your expectations just a bit.
Fowler might be the pass rushing demon the Jacksonville Jaguars hope he will become, but to think he will grab 12 to 14 sacks in what amounts his rookie season, fans might be a bit disappointed.
The Jaguars lost a huge part of their pass rushing plans last season when the Florida standout tore his ACL one hour into his rookie minicamp.
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A surgically repaired knee and a desire to show the NFL what they missed last season, Fowler appears to be healed and raring to go.
It’s been a gradual process since his knee surgery last season, but now, Fowler is ready to prove what he can do:
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“This is not going to stop me (the knee surgery) from getting to a quarterback,” Fowler told USA TODAY Sports, grinning as he pointed to the brace after a recent practice, “so I’m not worried about that at all.
“I know it’s going to be one day or one game when we all know that I’m back.”
The Jaguars' improvements on the defensive side of the ball were significant, but a huge pass rusher was not part of the free agent package and Yannick Ngakoue of Maryland will be a third-round pick looking to find his niche.
Fowler’s pressure to produce may be high to begin with, but if the middle of the defensive line does it part in shutting down the run and applying pressure to the quarterback over center, then his work becomes a bit easier.
And with that, head coach Gus Bradley’s job becomes a bit safer.
According to Hays Carlyon of the Florida Times-Union, Ngakoue made has made his presence known already in camp. He wrote:
"The 22-year-old Ngakoue has received praised from Jaguars coaches in the offseason program for his speed and burst off the ball. The 6-foot-2, 252-pound Ngakoue is expected to back up starter Dante Fowler at the weak-side defensive end LEO position."
Jacksonville is blessed to start the 2016 season with three first round talents in its starting lineup.
Fowler, with the addition to Jalen Ramsey on the backend at cornerback and Myles Jack, who figures to start at one outside linebacking slot, gives this team speed like it has never seen before.
The Jaguars are an increasingly popular pick to be one of the most improved teams in the NFL this season, and down here there is a feeling this could be a huge year for the teal and black based on what Fowler and the other neophytes can do.
It has to start up front and become contagious, with Fowler and newly acquired defensive tackle Malik Jackson, leading the way.
If Fowler, et al can erase some of the deficiencies of the team’s defense from last year, this is a franchise that should be a playoff contender. Should Fowler be able to exceed 6-8 sacks in his “rookie” season, there is no doubt this will be a playoff contender.
Fowler, like everyone else on this rebuilt defense, is waiting for his chance to show what he’s made of. The waiting game is getting a bit old. It’s time to show up rather than talk about it.