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Week in Focus: "I was just an angry guy"


JACKSONVILLE – Dante Fowler Jr. was impressive on a lot of fronts Thursday.

But during an appearance on O-Zone Live, the Jaguars' third-year defensive end perhaps was most impressive discussing what at times was a difficult 2016 season.

"I wanted to live up to the pressure, but it's so hard," Fowler said. "You want to be aggressive, and I was really trying to figure myself out. It was hard last year dealing with some of the things I was going through."

Fowler, the No. 3 overall selection in the 2015 NFL Draft, talked about many issues during the 15-minute interview, and he said he has worked extensively this offseason on pass-rush technique – an area he knows he must improve to increase his four-sack total from his first NFL season.

Fowler also discussed his difficulty controlling emotions, which he said stemmed from wanting to prove himself after missing his rookie season with a torn anterior cruciate ligament.

"I'm more prepared [entering the offseason program] than what I was last year," Fowler said. "Last year, I was just an angry guy. I had so much stuff boiling in me because I was never hurt [before 2015). I always played with my heart on my sleeve. I was thinking about showing everybody this ACL thing was nothing and I just wanted to take everybody's head off. That's really what I was doing when I was getting those personal fouls."

Fowler, who committed eight penalties last season – including two for unnecessary roughness and one for unsportsmanlike conduct – said he understands "you can't be selfish like that."

"It's not about me," Fowler said. "It's about the other [teammates]. They're just as good as you: just be humble and never take anything for granted. I'm not going to take it for granted. I'm going to be ready for work."

Fowler said overall he believes he progressed last season, "especially toward the end of the season."

"I could see myself and I'd say, 'Damn, if I had just done that from the beginning I'd be sitting on 10 sacks right now,''' Fowler said. "But that's the NFL, and it was my first year. You have to learn. I'm playing against the best offensive lineman in the world.

"I used to get so mad at myself and [defensive coordinator Todd] Wash would be like, 'They've got some great guys, too.' I didn't want it to be like that. I wanted to be able to overmatch everybody. I want my opponents to know what time it is when they're playing with me. So, it's just coming in [to this season] with a different mindset, not playing games. I'm very excited about this year."




*It has become clear in the last two weeks that part of the Jaguars' philosophy this offseason centers on gaining experience. That's true beyond obvious examples such as unrestricted free agents Calais Campbell and Barry Church and trade-acquired left tackle Branden Albert. The Jaguars have signed an extensive wave of "second-tier" free agents such as guard Earl Watford, linebacker Audie Cole, defensive tackle Stefan Charles and linebacker Josh McNary. They followed that by signing tight end Mychal Rivera this week. One reason for the signings is special teams, but another appears to be acquiring experienced depth and competition. In the past three or four seasons, the Jaguars often had first- or second-year players in reserve roles; this season, it appears players such as Watford and Rivera – players with 40 or more games of NFL experience – could fill the roles. That sort of change may not get much offseason notice, but it could mean increased consistency and reliability from backups come the regular season. …

*A highlight of safety Barry Church's Wednesday LIVE appearance came when he was discussing Jaguars Executive Vice President of Football Operations Tom Coughlin. Coughlin the previous week had discussed liking signing players from within his division because he likes being familiar with free agents. Church hasn't played in the Jaguars' division, but he did face Coughlin twice a year in the NFC East when Coughlin was coaching the New York Giants and Church was playing for Dallas. "We went against each other since I started," Church said. "They've had victories and we've had victories, but he's been able to see me as a player develop from a young guy out there trying to make plays to a bona fide leader of the defense and leader of men. He knew what he was doing when he came and got me. What he believes I am is a great leader of men and someone who can encourage and get the young guys going in the right direction. Hopefully, I can stand on what he believes in me." …

*Fowler on Thursday also talked about the work he has done in Tampa this offseason to work on pass-rushing technique, and he said beating offensive linemen perhaps wasn't his biggest issue. "It's not necessarily not being able to get there, but when I'm there – finishing strong," Fowler said. "That's what I need to focus on, just finishing when I do get there."

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