One of the big question marks for the Jacksonville Jaguars this offseason is the progression of former Top 5 pick, Dante Fowler Jr. Fowler missed his rookie season with a knee injury and played a backup role to rookie Yannick Ngakoue last season, so there is an expectation he makes a big jump in his third NFL season.
Fowler struggled rushing the passer last season, really to make any impact plays, but he did flash a few times late in the season. Most of his pressures on the quarterback came from stunts and twists, which shouldn't be a big shock. When he was good in college at Florida, most of his big games were from being moved all over the field and disrupting.
For Fowler to be effective in 2017, he's going to need to do a little more than just get home on stunts and twists and thankfully, he realizes that.
"I’ve been focusing on my technique," Fowler told Jaguars.com LIVE on Thursday nearly two weeks ago. "I’m a very athletic guy. I can move and do all the athletic things, but looking at film, once I put my technique into the athleticism I can be a great pass rusher. That’s what I’ve been focusing on – pass-rushing, getting off the ball, staying low, learning how to stay on my line and have a great countermove as well. That’s my job – to sack the quarterback, and I need to do that."
Jeff Lageman mentioned the issues with Fowler on Jaguars Thursday a few weeks ago is that he simply does not have any pass rush moves. He has solid speed to power and can get off the snap, but once the tackle gets on him he's generally simply just stonewalled and/or ran wide out of the play. A simple pass rush move for Fowler can go a long way. That was one of the primary differences in rushing the passer between Fowler and Ngakoue, in that Ngakoue has a move. If you go back and watch Ngakoue, you'll see a kind of hop-step uppercut move he uses to keep the tackle's hands off him, which allows him to dip and turn the corner to get to the quarterback. Now, Ngakoue will need to develop more beyond that, but since he actually has a move he's already way ahead of Fowler.
"If feel really good about myself this year going into this year," Fowler continued. "I’ve been working a lot on myself mentally and physically and emotionally. I’m really excited."
I don't think there are any questions about Fowler's work ethic and no doubt he's working hard. There might be some question about his maturity, but he if he can develop even a partial effective rush move this offseason, it can go a long way in his development.