JACKSONVILLE – Dante Fowler Jr.'s role is expanding before he even plays a down.
That was a primary takeaway from Todd Wash's first media availability as Jaguars defensive coordinator Friday, with Wash saying the 2015 first-round draft selection could line up next season in more places than just the end of the line of scrimmage.
"We started studying how to put him in positions to be successful," Wash said.
That could mean many things. Fowler, the No. 3 overall selection in the 2015 NFL Draft from the University of Florida, is listed as a Leo defensive end. That's the Jaguars' primary pass-rush position.
"We're not scraping the LEO. We're not changing the LEO," Wash said.
But Wash said the Jaguars are working to find ways to allow Fowler to "really stress the offensive line and the offensive quarterback." Wash said that will mean moving Fowler around the line of scrimmage before the snap to create favorable matchups.
"We have to make sure that we put him in position to be successful, not just standing up out there or putting his hand down," Wash said. "At the same time, we have to stay within our package and put him in a position. He's an explosive player."
Wash said the Jaguars want to "try to get [Fowler] in a situation where he's one-on-one with somebody and put other guys in other positions where they can't just slide to him. It could be over any of the five guys up front to allow him to be successful and show what he's really able to do.
"He's a phenomenal athlete and player. He's working hard to get back to where he was. We just [have] to put him in position to show those talents."
The Jaguars finished 31st in the NFL in third-down defense in 2015, finishing the season with 36 sacks after registering 45 in 2014.
"That's our number one project," Wash said. "We have to figure out third down."
One issue was the absence of three-technique tackle Sen'Derrick Marks, who had no sacks in four games in 2015 after registering 8.5 sacks in 2014. But Wash said another issue was the loss of Fowler, who sustained a torn anterior cruciate ligament in a May minicamp and missed his entire rookie season.
"I think it hurt when we lost him a year ago," Wash said. "You saw some of the issues that we had because Dante wasn't here."
Wash said Fowler has been impressive rehabilitating and preparing for next season.
"He's busting his hind end, working out – body is already starting to change," Wash said. "You can see the determination he has to come back from this injury. I can't wait to put my hands on him."
Also on Friday:
*Jaguars Head Coach Gus Bradley said Wash likely will continue in his role working with the defensive line. He was the line coach in 2013-2014 and the line coach/run-game coordinator this past season. "We'll move slowly on that," Bradley said. "We'll take a look at it and see. Todd Wash has respect in the defensive-line room. … I don't want to go from an A, A- defensive line coach to a C defensive line coach. Could there be somebody? It would have to be somebody we think is very talented to go into that room and coach them." …
*Bradley said Wash's performance as run-game coordinator this past season played a factor in the hire. The Jaguars finished 15th in the NFL against the run this past season, allowing 106.8 yards per game. They allowed 3.7 yards per carry, which was fifth in the NFL. "I'm glad I put him in the run game coordinator position because I think it gave him ownership of that," Bradley said. "He's always been pretty strong and pretty demanding, but to see him take ownership of that and take it on the field, I think that gave me a stronger sense of where he's at." …
*Bradley discussed the one-year extension he received Friday to extend his contract through 2017: "It eliminates some distraction, probably more so for the assistants. Its' great for them, so very much appreciated. … What it does show is the commitment [Jaguars Owner] Shad and [General Manager] Dave [Caldwell] made and the belief they have in this coaching staff." …
*While Wash will call defensive plays, Bradley said he will be involved more heavily with the defense moving forward. "I told him [Wash], 'I'd like to have more of a presence defensively – let's come up with a role for that,''' Bradley said. "That was something he felt very strongly about, too.'' …
*Bradley explained the reasoning for having longtime NFL defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin consult during the coordinator search. "He's had a track record of hiring very good defensive personnel," Bradley said of Kiffin. "I brought him in to sit in on the interviews more as a consultant-type approach. I told him the No. 1 objective here is to hire who's best for our organization, where we're at." Bradley said Kiffin will not be a full-time member of the staff. …
*Wash said he will coach from the sideline on game day as opposed to doing so from the coaches' box. …
*Wash discussed what he brings to the defense: "There's going to be a mentality to our defense. I think it's going to be a situation where we're going to play with great toughness, great effort and we're going to play disciplined. I think that's some of the things that we did not do as a unit. …"
*Wash on discipline: "You want to be penalty-free, but just the assignment, details and fundamentals. We have to execute that stuff better to have this package work. It's a very precise package. For us to be able to execute it, we have to be on our job." …
*Wash discussed the Jaguars' defensive scheme: "This scheme is not broke. Some teams implemented a year ago in some other places and they jumped drastically in stats. We just have to fix some things. We have to be able to implement it a little bit more and put our players in position to make plays because really it's a players' league. …"