JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Jaguars defensive end Dante Fowler was a magnet for criticism in his first season of action.
His lack of discipline led to plenty of penalties, which in turn disappointed the coaching staff.
As the headaches piled up, Jaguars defensive coordinator Todd Wash began to note the mistakes publicly.
Eventually, Wash saw Fowler’s game mature towards the end of last season. The pass rusher’s development has apparently carried over to this offseason.
“Dante has matured a lot,” Wash said on Thursday. “You [saw] him a little more and more as the season went on last year. He is more focused on the little details. He is definitely here early in the building a lot more. You just see a young man mature, which is really good to see because he is a good football player.”
Two years removed from ACL surgery, Fowler has plenty to prove this season. He produced just 32 tackles and four sacks during his up-and-down debut year.
The room for optimism comes from the final two games of last season. With then-interim head coach Doug Marrone at the helm, Fowler seemingly played at a higher level.
He produced 1.5 sacks and three pass breakups during the two-game stretch while serving in a rotation behind then-rookie Yannick Ngakoue.
“There are a lot of young players that it takes a little longer to mature and we see those strides with Dante,” Wash said.
Fowler has worked on his pass rushing technique this offseason. Under new defensive line coach Marion Hobby, Fowler has gained some ground with the mechanical aspects of pass rushing.
“We see a lot of improvement in the pass rush side of things,” Wash said. “Obviously we’re not coming speed to power. Everything is speed-based right now. You see improvement in his hands, his get-off. A lot of it was, [Hobby] had to fix his stance. He has concentrated a lot on that and you see the explosion and burst that we’re looking for.”
At this point last summer, Fowler was the talk of the town for his flashes of brilliance against his own teammates. He then failed to live up to the hype when it mattered the most.
Fowler will get another chance to prove his worth in July. With refined technique, he could be poised for a breakout season.
Follow Mike Kaye on Twitter at @Mike_E_Kaye.