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Falcons 2021 over/under: Dante Fowler sacks

Can the pass rusher finally make an impact in Atlanta?

NFL: Atlanta Falcons at Dallas Cowboys Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

When former GM Thomas Dimitroff signed Dante Fowler in 2020, the hope was that the former first round pick would had finally found his footing in the NFL. His 2019 with the Rams saw him hit a career high in sacks with 11.5. Fans correctly pointed out that he had Aaron Donald drawing double-teams, while Atlanta fans noted that Grady Jarrett is a high-quality interior pass rusher as well. Fowler was supposed to help lift this pass rush up in a do-or-die year for the coaching staff and front office, but that wasn’t quite how things went.

While his 3 sacks in 2020 were incredibly disappointing, there may be reason to believe he can do more. Let’s take a look at what his numbers could look like in 2021.

The baseline

The 3 sacks Fowler netted in 2020 were his lowest ever, and there was some indication that he played injured for most of the season. Previously, he had 4, 8, 4 and 11.5 sacks in 2016 through 2019 respectively, and while he had decent pressure numbers they were not close to what he delivered in his 2020 career year. We’re also hearing that Fowler looks like he’s in great shape going into 2021 (like we’ve never heard that before) and Dean Pees is excited about his potential in his defense.

Given his career numbers, we’re going to set the baseline at 5.5 sacks.

The case for the over

Other than 2020, the years where Fowler had less than 8 sacks were his rookie year and 2018, when he was traded mid-season to the Rams. When he has had a full, uninterrupted season, he has been able to put together 8 and 11.5 sacks (prior to Atlanta). Additionally, he’s going to get the opportunity to rush the passer more as a stand-up rusher in 2021 - which is what he did in 2019 when he had his best season ever.

Finally, he’ll be playing for a veteran defensive coordinator who has a good history of using guys well to get to the QB. Dean Pees should - in theory - be able to maximize his talent and get him closer to his best seasons than to his worst ones.

The case for the under

As noted earlier, Fowler’s best season was when he had Aaron Donald demanding constant attention up the middle. Grady Jarrett is certainly a top-notch interior pass rusher, but Donald is on another level from the rest of the NFL. While Fowler was a former first round pick, there were questions about whether his skills would translate successfully to the NFL.

Additionally, Fowler now has 5 full seasons in the NFL (with 3 different teams) and has only had two seasons where he had more than our baseline. While we certainly hope Dante blows this baseline out of the water, his career indicates it’s probably not likely. That doesn’t mean he can’t add considerable value as a pass rusher, but expecting him to hit double digits again feels like a stretch.

Your vote

Poll

Dante Fowler sacks

This poll is closed

  • 62%
    He’ll get 6 or more
    (323 votes)
  • 37%
    I’m thinking 5 or less
    (191 votes)
514 votes total Vote Now