Saying the right thing and doing the right thing are, as we all know, two entirely different things. A coach can talk about a defense improving and putting in maximum effort, but unless those things actually happen, those are ultimately just words.
That’s the necessary caveat for Dante Fowler, who won’t have a chance to back up his talk with his play until (at least, please let the season kick off on time) September. The Falcons’ high-priced veteran pass rusher signing talked to the media yesterday and said everything you could possibly want to hear out of him, and he lives up to 75% of his goals for himself he’ll be an outrageously great signing.
As recounted by Vaughn McClure at ESPN, Fowler isn’t going to be content if he comes to Atlanta and registers 9 sacks, even though that’d feel like a godsend after the last couple of seasons.
“The goal is to break Michael Strahan’s record,” Fowler said without hesitation, referring to Strahan’s 22.5 sacks in 2001. “You’ve got to put a lot of work in.
“In order to be the best pass-rusher in the league, I have to put up double digits every year. That’s why I feel like edge rushers be put up on this pedestal, but the NFL is a what-have-you-done-for-me-lately-type league. ... That’s my job and my goal, to be consistent every year, come out with double digits. This [past season] was 11.5? I want to have more than 11.5, 12.5 every year. But the goal is to beat Strahan’s record.”
This is exactly what you want to hear from the biggest free agent pass rusher signing since Ray Edwards, especially coming from a vastly more talented player who loves Dan Quinn and seems genuinely excited to be here. There are plenty of question marks about Fowler’s track record up until last year, but he said Jacksonville’s perception of who he was as a player and person played into that.
“Just the situations that I was going in Jacksonville, not playing and stuff, and I felt like that was the reason — because of how they were viewing me as a person off the field,” Fowler said. “It definitely changed my life around in a lot of ways. When I got to the L.A. Rams, they just gave me an opportunity to basically start over again. I took advantage of that because I didn’t make the most of the opportunity the first time. I said, ‘If I ever get it again, I’ll never mess it up again.’”
More than anything else, Fowler’s familiarity with Quinn, the team’s huge need for a pass rusher, and last year’s excellence gives me hope that he’ll be the best free agent pass rusher the team has signed in the last two decades, which is admittedly a low bar to clear. Let’s hope he can reach the heights he’s talking about.