We’re in the depths of the offseason here at The Falcoholic, and there has been little to nothing in the way of interesting news in ages. So, we’ll have to make some content of our own in the meantime. Today, I’ll be kicking off a new Player Profile series, where we’ll take a look at each of the players on Atlanta’s roster. I’ll break down their measurables, past production, and try to project their 2020 season with the Falcons.
We’ll get things started with the projected starters. The first group I’ll be taking a look at is EDGE, where the Falcons invested a ton of free agency capital to try and improve upon a unit which produced only 28 sacks in 2019.
The Falcons were more active in free agency than we had initially anticipated based on their limited cap space. Their big prize was replacing outgoing free agent EDGE Vic Beasley with ex-Rams and Jaguars pass rusher Dante Fowler, who was coming off a big season in 2019 where he was among the NFL’s most productive sack artists. Fowler reportedly chose Atlanta over other suitors due to his relationship with Dan Quinn, which goes all the way back to his days at Florida.
EDGE Dante Fowler Jr.
Age: 25 (26 during 2020 season)
Career Production: 63 games played, 21 starts | 141 total tackles, 34.0 TFL, 27.5 sacks, 12 PD, 6 FF
2019 Production: 58 total tackles, 16.0 TFL, 11.5 sacks, 6 PD, 2 FF, 35 total pressures
Previous Teams: Drafted 1st Round (#3 overall) by Jacksonville Jaguars (2015-2018), Los Angeles Rams (2018-2019)
After beginning his career has a top-3 pick in the 2015 NFL Draft, Dante Fowler Jr. wound up missing his entire rookie season due to an ACL tear. He had a relatively slow start to his second season, with just 32 tackles and 4.0 sacks to his name in 2016. Then, on a strong Jaguars defense in 2017, Fowler turned in a very good third season (8.0 sacks, 7 TFL, 2 FF) and his stock seemed to be on the upswing after generating another 2.0 sacks in the playoffs.
Fowler began the 2018 on the suspended list for violating the NFL’s personal conduct policy, and he seemed to be in on the outs with Jacksonville. The team wound up trading him to the Los Angeles Rams at the midpoint of the season, where Fowler would have a solid finish to the season. In 2019, Fowler put together the best effort of his career with a dominant campaign that saw him rack up career highs in nearly every statistical category.
After a slow start to his career, Fowler appears to be in his prime. It’s always risky to pay a player who finally “breaks out” during a contract year, but the Falcons needed an impact pass rusher and they couldn’t really afford to be picky. Fowler is Atlanta’s big-time free agent addition for the 2020 season, and the team will be depending on him to be the primary edge pass rusher that they’ve lacked since Vic Beasley’s phenomenal year in 2016.
Fowler is a versatile pass rusher who can win with both speed and power, and he fits Dan Quinn’s scheme very well. In fact, it’s rumored Quinn would’ve taken Fowler over Beasley had Fowler lasted to Atlanta’s pick due to the strong relationship between the two. Fowler obviously needs to continue his improvement as a pass rusher, but he’s a far better run defender than Beasley and can contribute more on early downs.
Projection: Double-digit sacks and high TFL numbers as Atlanta’s primary pass rushing threat. Fowler will justify his contract in Atlanta and play at a high level, but just how well he plays will probably depend on the pieces around him. The secondary and other pass rushing pieces also need to pull their weight, or Fowler’s talents will be wasted in Atlanta.