Around this time last year, Dante Fowler said he was ready to “turn it loose” after sitting out his entire rookie year with a devastating knee injury. The result? Four sacks and 32 combined tackles in 16 games played.
Now the Jaguars pass rusher is ready to take his game to the next level.
When asked this week if he’s going to make the leap, Fowler responded, per GridironNow.com, “I think it will happen. It was a big learning experience for me last year on and off the field. That was my first year on the field. I was like a freshman in college all over again, getting used to the guys at this level. It gave me an idea of how big and strong some of these guys are.”
Most encouraging for Fowler is that, after rehabbing his injured ACL all of last offseason, he is finally reaping the benefits of a healthy spring and seeing marked improvement in his burst and agility.
“[The ACL injury] out of my head, mentally,” Fowler said. “It is hard to believe it’s been two years. The coolest thing about it is the progress I see while we’re doing the conditioning work. I’m seeing how strong I’m getting and the explosiveness coming from my knee. It’s a really cool thing.”
The former third overall selection’s potential ascent is just one storyline to watch this season in Jacksonville, where Shad Khan, Dave Caldwell and Tom Coughlin have stockpiled an expensive, highly touted defense. The additions of Barry Church, A.J. Bouye and Calais Campbell are expected to sure up an already stacked secondary and front seven, while the Jags hope to see improvement out of their young stars in Fowler, Myles Jack and Jalen Ramsey.
We’ve been burned by premature Jaguars hype two years running now, so it’s safer to tread lightly than anoint the team in May as the AFC’s dark horse. The same goes for Fowler and the defense.