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Dante Fowler Jr.: 'I can't wait to get on pads'


JACKSONVILLE – Dante Fowler Jr. wanted some specifics from the past three weeks.

The Jaguars' third-year defensive end on Friday said he got them, which means he feels organized team activities have been productive – and which means he's looking forward to training camp.

*Really, really *looking forward to training camp.

"I'm a hands-on, physical type of guy; I prefer pads," Fowler said on Friday following the Jaguars 10th and final 2017 OTA workout at the practice fields adjacent to EverBank Field.

OTAs are no contact, and no pads, but Fowler said that didn't keep him from getting a lot out of OTAs.  Fowler, the No. 3 overall selection in the 2015 NFL Draft, said he entered the offseason very much aware that he needed to focus on pass-rushing techniques and fundamentals.

He said Friday on that front the offseason has been a success.

"I got a lot of technical work, which is what I really need the most," Fowler said. "That was important. It was good to be out here working my hands, learning new moves and learning how to pass rush."

Fowler, who missed his 2015 rookie season with a torn anterior cruciate ligament before registering four sacks in 2016, impressed with his speed and athleticism last offseason and has done so again this offseason. Veteran defensive end Calais Campbell, a two-time Pro Bowl selection who signed as an unrestricted from Arizona in March, on Thursday spoke of Fowler's potential.

"He's the best athlete on the field," Campbell said. "That guy's special."

Campbell later in the same quote talked about Fowler's technique not being perfect. That has been a topic this offseason when observers have discussed Fowler. He said on Friday the area has been a focus throughout OTAs in both individual and team work.

"I can't wait to get on pads," Fowler said, adding that his focus until the end of July will be on reporting to training camp physically and mentally in the best shape possible: "I think it's going to be really interesting and really fun."

Fowler said he believes he's a different player and person now from a year ago.

"I was like a baby deer out there," Fowler said of 2016. "I was just happy I wasn't hurt anymore, and that I was able to get back to it and compete. I would say my preparation wasn't there all the way. I was physically ready, but as far as knowing the game, knowing how to pass rush and maturity-wise …

"I had a pretty good season. A lot of people don't see a lot of things. I did pretty good in a lot of other ways, but getting to the quarterback … that's the main thing and that's what I've been working on."

Fowler said as much as pass-rush technique, his focus this season will be on finishing plays.

"I was there, but … finishing – that's what I need to do and that's we're working on now," Fowler said.

Fowler, too, said he feels closer to himself physically than he did in 2016. While he was cleared and fully recovered last season from his May 2015 torn ACL, Fowler said the difference in his confidence in the knee now compared to last season is significant.

"I'm able to bend a little more," Fowler said. "I trust my knee. I'm more explosive, more powerful and stronger."

Mostly, though, Fowler said he feels like a professional – both on the field and off.

Fowler last season committed eight penalties, many of which were mental mistakes and therefore the kind coaches consider avoidable. He said he realizes that must change, and he said he realizes that the player who played as a young player last season must play as a more mature one in 2017.

"I was clearly a rookie last year," he said. "I made a lot of mistakes and learned from all my mistakes, too. I feel like that was a really big learning curve for me last year. Now, this year, I'm able to be in my right state of mind and just go and play fast."

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