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The Rams Went All In for Dante Fowler Jr. But Is He Their Missing Piece?

In acquiring the former third-overall pick from the Jaguars, L.A. is attempting to fill its biggest need and gear up for a Super Bowl run

Jacksonville Jaguars v Kansas City Chiefs Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images

The Deal

The Rams have reportedly traded a 2019 third-round pick and a 2020 fifth-round pick to the Jaguars in exchange for Jacksonville pass rusher Dante Fowler Jr.

The Rams Get Their Pass Rusher … Maybe

Tuesday’s trade deadline couldn’t slip by without the Rams making a splash. Head coach Sean McVay said that improving the pass rush was the team’s top priority going into the deadline, and now L.A. ostensibly has a player who can fill that role.

Fowler has recorded just two sacks and one QB hit all season for Jacksonville, and Pro Football Focus has him with 17 QB pressures on the season, which is tied for the 70th most in the league. Those numbers paint a grim picture, but they don’t accurately reflect the opportunities (or lack thereof) that Fowler has had this season. Fowler hasn’t been starting for the Jags, so he’s seen fewer snaps than most other defenders. And in PFF’s overall pass-rushing productivity metric—which measures the pressure defenders create on a per-snap basis—Fowler is tied for 20th place among all defenders. L.A. is clearly betting that with a higher volume of snaps, Fowler can become the edge threat the team is missing.

Despite his pass-rushing prowess, Fowler has deficiencies in other areas of the game that have kept him off the field. Per PFF’s charting, Fowler is a serious liability in run defense, ranking third to last among all edge defenders in that regard. There are off-field concerns with Fowler as well—he was suspended for one game this season after a 2017 arrest in which police said he “hit” a man and stomped on his glasses after a traffic confrontation. Fowler pleaded no contest to charges of misdemeanor battery, criminal mischief, and petty theft and is serving one year of probation from that incident. Fowler was also suspended for a week by the Jaguars this preseason after he and Yannick Ngakoue got into a post-practice fight in mid-August.

The Rams are betting that those issues won’t flare up again and that the former no. 3 overall pick can become more productive in all areas of the defense when he’s playing alongside Aaron Donald and Ndamukong Suh. But then again, it’s not like Fowler was on the field with a bunch of slouches in #Sacksonville.

The Rams needed pass-rush help, and Fowler was the only option available—no other pass rusher moved at the deadline. And as Jacksonville didn’t pick up Fowler’s fifth-year option, the Rams will only have him through the end of this season before he hits free agency. General manager Les Snead has been pushing his chips in since the offseason as the team hunts for a Super Bowl. Now we’ll see whether Fowler can be the missing piece to the puzzle.

The Jags Move On From a First-Round Disappointment

Fowler never developed into the player the Jaguars envisioned when Jacksonville selected him in the 2015 draft. He missed his entire rookie year due to an ACL tear and has started just one game in his three-year career. He has totaled 14 sacks in 39 games—numbers that won’t blow you away but aren’t bad considering his limited playing time—but he’s hardly been the force expected from a top-three pick.

With such a loaded defense, the Jaguars didn’t really have room to give Fowler serious playing time. So grabbing two midround picks for a player who was almost certainly on his way out anyway, and for whom the team had no clear role, is a great deal for Jacksonville.