In case you’ve been under a rock the past 24 hours, the Jacksonville Jaguars suspended two defensive players for a violation of team rules on Sunday for a week. One of those players was fourth-year defensive end Dante Fowler, Jr., the Jaguars third overall pick in the 2015 NFL Draft. Fowler, who had just come off the physically unable to perform (PUP) list on Saturday, was in as many fights as he had practices this training camp.
Fighting in training camp isn’t really a big deal, or odd, but it’s typically between a player on the offense and a player on the defense because they’re directly competing against one another in a physical battle. Well, this wasn’t that between Fowler and teammate Yannick Ngakoue. The two play the same position, on the same side of the ball, so the two fighting rather odd.
Not only is it odd, but it was clearly rather heated. Ngakoue was able to break free of teammates blocking him multiple times trying to get to Fowler, who was also being held back by teammates. Then, after the initial scuffle died down, the two got into it again coming off the practice field and had to be separated by security and led to Ngakoue being walked off by the wrist by general manager Dave Caldwell.
We don’t know the details of how or why it started, but that’s a lot more than just a simple training camp fight if it continued that severely afterwards. Typically you could write this off, but again the fact that it was by players who play the same position and the issue was so severe they continued to go at one another after practice has to lead the Jaguars to ask the question...
Is there a point at which it becomes untenable?
I’ve seen people call to trade Fowler and just cut the ties now instead of waiting out the final year of his rookie contract, but that’s not that easy of a decision to make. All that being said, I do think it’s something the team is going to have to look at, because if this isn’t an issue that can be resolved and compartmentalized by the players it’s something that can continue to fester and actually disrupt the locker room. You also have to ask the question on if Fowler is mature enough to be able to do that, Ngakoue too, but Fowler has a history of maturity issues that don’t seem to be slowing down.
I wrote about it prior to the team deciding not to pick up Fowler’s fifth-year option, but I think the writing has been on the wall for him for a while and we’re still too early into the preseason before I can say that dumping him for a Day 3 pick (which is about what he’s worth, all things considered) and just ripping the band-aid off.
Fowler is still a useful depth/rotational pass rush, regardless of how good any of us actually think he is, on a loaded defensive line. But, after Fowler, you have a bunch of question marks. Do they have anyone who can step in and be the primary right end back up? Lerentee McCray had a promising season last year before injury and looked good in the preseason, but I don’t think he’s shown enough that you can dump Fowler right now. Can Taven Bryan show enough to make you comfortable? Has Dawuane Smoot shown enough to make you comfortable? Hunter Dimick?
It all comes back to the balance of the situation and if it’s just going to blow over after the suspensions, etc. The franchise is going to need to gauge how the situation is going forward and if it’s going to be something untenable and a distraction.