JACKSONVILLE – Dante Fowler Jr. liked what he saw.
That didn’t mean the Jaguars’ defensive end liked watching his teammates Sunday – and that was his big takeaway from the one-week suspension he served during the regular-season opener:
It’s not something he wants to experience again.
“It really just made me appreciate the game, being out there on Sundays,” Fowler said Monday, a day after the Jaguars’ 20-15 victory over the New York Giants at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey, Sunday afternoon.
“I don’t know when the last time was I watched a game on Sunday, so just being in that situation … it was very dull. But it was very cool just to see my teammates make plays.”
Fowler, the No. 3 overall selection by the Jaguars in the 2015 NFL Draft, missed the victory over the Giants while serving a one-game suspension for violating the NFL’s personal conduct policy. He spent last week away from the Jaguars’ facility conditioning before returning Monday.
Fowler said while watching the game was difficult, it wasn’t entirely unenjoyable – particularly when imagining how he might fit upon his return.
“It was hard for me to watch,” Fowler said. “I’m very passionate about the game, but from a fan’s standpoint, it was just very cool to see. It was so cool. The New York Giants have a lot of great players. Saquon [Barkley], he’s a great back. Odell [Beckham] Jr., he’s a great receiver.
“To see how fast we were … I just think, ‘If I’m out there, I’ll add an extra little firepower to what we have.’ I’m just ready to go at all times.
“It was cool to see them put it all together and I can’t wait to be another piece.”
Fowler registered eight sacks last regular season, adding two more in the Jaguars’ AFC Championship Game loss to the New England Patriots.
The Jaguars will play host to the Patriots (1-0) at TIAA Bank Field Sunday at 4:25 p.m.
“I think that was my coming-out game,” Fowler said of the championship-game performance. “I actually expect myself to go out there and be that same consistent player and start where I left off.”
Notes and observations from Monday around the Jaguars:
*Veteran cornerback D.J. Hayden turned in two of the Jaguars’ bigger defensive plays Sunday, initiating a tackle after a fourth-quarter reception by Barkley that prevented the rookie from converting a third down and breaking up a long fourth-down pass deep in Jaguars territory just after the two-minute warning. The pass breakup ended the Giants’ last real scoring opportunity. The plays came in Hayden’s first regular-season game with the Jaguars after signing as an unrestricted free agent in the offseason. The No. 12 overall selection in the 2013 NFL Draft by Oakland, Hayden was signed to play the nickel role in Jacksonville – a role he has embraced and one in which he appeared steadily more comfortable throughout training camp and preseason. “I play the nickel, so I go in there and do my job: just make plays when they come to you,” he said. “When you’re in there, just make plays. When your time comes, make the best of it.”
*One area that shouldn’t get lost from Sunday: the coverage units. The Jaguars focused on this area in the offseason, re-signing defensive end Lerentee McCray and signing safety Cody Davis and tight end Niles Paul as special teams-centric free agents. The Giants on Sunday returned one of the Jaguars’ four kickoffs, with Cody Latimer returning it 15 yards. Giants punt returner Kaelin Clay returned three punts for four yards, with Jaguars second-year linebacker Donald Payne recovering a muffed punt by Clay with :45 remaining in the fourth quarter to secure the victory. Clay averaged 8.6 yards per punt return with a touchdown for Carolina last season. “It was a great way to cap it off,” Payne said. “We brought in a lot of people to help on special teams. We’re just trying to improve and get rid of our weaknesses. Yesterday was a great start to that, but there’s a lot of room for improvement.”