Malik Jackson has made it a point to downplay expectations over Jacksonville’s revamped defense. It’s not that he doesn’t understand why there is hype, he knows that’s what happens when you are a key player on a Super Bowl-winning team with a dominant defense. And it’s not that he doesn’t think the Jaguars’ defensive unit will be good, he just thinks that it will take some time.
That’s why it’s so interesting, and a little bit humorous, that he had this to say about linebacker Dante Fowler:
“Dante (Fowler) has a lot of energy. He is a very cerebral player. To me, he is very Von-esque,” Jackson said. “I’ve seen some of that in Dante. I think he can definitely be the same player. Just a lot of potential, we’ve just got to go out there and work together to get these sacks.”
So Jackson wants to downplay the impact he will have on the Jaguars defense, but then he goes and compares Fowler to Von Miller, the greatest linebacker in the NFL, who destroyed Tom Brady and Cam Newton on his way to becoming Super Bowl MVP last winter.
As interesting as the comment is, we shouldn’t read too much into it. Whether or not Fowler is the next coming of Miller remains to be seen, but what we do know is that Fowler will have to be excellent if the Jaguars’ defense is to take the next step forward. So will Jackson, as a matter of fact.
A first-round pick (No. 3 overall) in 2015 out of Florida, Fowler didn’t play last season after injuring his ACL in training camp. But Jackson’s hyperbole aside, the early returns on Fowler this summer have been very good. Ian Rapoport of NFL Media said that Fowler has been “embarrassing” offensive linemen in camp and has “rarely been blocked.”
That’s why the Jaguars drafted him so high in the first place. They expected the 6-3, 260-pounder to be a wrecking ball for them, they just had to wait an extra year for that to happen. Combined with Jackson, perhaps the Jaguars could have that one-two pass-rushing punch that Jackson and Miller brought to the Broncos last year.
Jackson knows that expectations will be high, but while he’s optimistic, he’s not feeling the pressure. He says the locker room is “chill” and that the players know they’ll have to do it all as a team.
“We understand that we are all players and we’re all trying to get better together,” Jackson said. “I think that there is pressure, but not in the locker room. Everybody understand that this is the year we have to turn it around and we really have to start working hard and have a winning season and win the AFC South.”
So just because Jackson is downplaying Super Bowl talk doesn’t mean he doesn’t have big goals in mind. He sees a division title within reach, not bad for a team that went 5-11 last year, and then advancing from there.
He sees steady improvement ahead, and he sees himself and Fowler playing a central role in that improvement.