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NFL AM: Dante Fowler Tears ACL, Will Miss Rookie Season

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Jaguars Lose Fowler for the Season

It’s only May and already the Jaguars have suffered their first tough loss of the 2015 season. Dante Fowler, the No. 3 overall pick in the draft, tore his ACL during Jacksonville’s first rookie mini camp session on Friday. The injury will cost him his entire rookie season.

Fowler is the perfect fit for the “Leo” position in Gus Bradley’s defense, so much so that he said before the draft he would be “shocked” if the Jaguars did not select him. Jacksonville hoped that Fowler — who led a solid Florida defense with 8.5 sacks last season — would lift its pass rush to another level. The Jaguars finished with the sixth-most sacks in the league in 2014 (45) and adding Fowler to the mix would have created the kind of attacking, dictating defense that Coach Bradley coordinated in Seattle.

Instead, Jacksonville is back to square one as it looks to gain ground in a division that has been owned by Andrew Luck and just welcomed Marcus Mariota.

The timing of the injury is painful on many levels. Fowler tore his ACL within the first hour of his first practice with the team, which broke the hearts of Jaguars fans who feel their franchise has been snake-bitten enough already.

The timing is also not ideal for Bradley and GM Dave Caldwell, who are entering their third seasons in charge and have won just seven games over the last two years. Rebuilding this roster was always going to be an extensive project, so it may be premature to say they are on the hot seat, but owner Shahid Khan wants to see his team begin an upward trajectory.

Upon arriving in Jacksonville, Caldwell said his three-year plan involved getting a left tackle in Year 1, a quarterback in Year 2 and a pass rusher in Year 3. While the first two items have been crossed off the list with the selections of Luke Joeckel and Blake Bortles, the third item will now linger for at least one more season.

“Young edge rushers are hard to find,” Caldwell said after drafting Fowler but before the injury occurred. “We looked forward to next year’s draft and — to be quite frank with you — it’s not a great year for edge rushers. I hope we’re not in a spot where we’re picking high in the draft. We won’t be able to be in a position to pick a guy. They’re hard to find.”

Fowler headlined what was arguably the most impressive draft class in Jaguars history, one that included the selection of potential franchise RB T.J. Yeldon. Jacksonville also pulled off two of the best value picks in the draft, getting OG A.J. Cann in the third round and DT Michael Bennett in the sixth. Those players could help push the Jaguars higher in the AFC South pecking order, but for now, this draft class’ most significant contribution will be to the injured-reserve list.

More Craziness from the Cowboys

What’s gotten into the water in Dallas? And just as importantly, why hasn’t Randy Gregory gotten his hands on any of that water?

There have been some crazy headlines coming from the Cowboys lately, including the news that second-round pick Randy Gregory was forced to leave the second session of rookie mini camp on Friday due to heat exhaustion and dehydration.

“The humidity kind of caught up with me,” Gregory told NFL Media’s Desmond Purnell. “I’m a little out of shape.”

The news hardly comes as a surprise, as Gregory did not exactly use his time constructively this offseason. That’s what caused him to fall to the bottom of the second round, where he was scooped up by a Cowboys team that is apparently collecting bad eggs by the dozen.

Speaking of headlines that don’t hold water, Executive VP Stephen Jones told a group of season-ticket holders the Cowboys “might really have something here” in veteran running back Darren McFadden. As someone who has covered the AFC West since 2001, I can confirm the Cowboys have indeed found something. They’ve found a glass-bodied runner with a 27-year-old body and 37-year-old knees.

Ironically, while the younger Jones was spewing nonsense, his father was busy undercutting him by telling reporters he would trade away his 2016 first-round pick to acquire an elite player who could help the team this season. While Jerry Jones did not specifically mention Adrian Peterson’s name (because league rules prevent it), that’s clearly the situation he was addressing.

“I’d be reluctant to, but certainly if the right situation came along that could improve us now, with where we are with Tony Romo (35), his career and where we are with what we’ve put together, it’s a good time to go for it,” Jones said.

Basically, the Cowboys are getting old and are willing to roll the dice, which explains why the team has signed so many players with character concerns, including the addition of La’El Collins late last week before his ex-girlfriend’s murder investigation has been completed.

Sorry to take the shine off your star, Cowboys fans, but this season has 6-10 written all over it.

Pettine’s Headline Machine

Browns coach Mike Pettine set out to make some headlines of his own this week, starting with the proclamation that veteran Josh McCown will be his team’s starter not just heading into training camp, but likely to open the regular season, as well.

“Josh will more than likely be the starter going into camp,” Pettine said. “In the foreseeable future, I don’t see that changing.”

It’s a smart strategy by Pettine, as the Browns do not want to put too much on Johnny Manziel’s plate just yet. The 2014 first-round pick is less than two weeks removed from a lengthy stint in rehab, so it makes sense to set the bar low and allow him slowly raise expectations with his performance.

It is also important to make Manziel understand he must earn his future in the NFL, as his false sense of entitlement played a big role in his disastrous rookie season.

Pettine did not stop the conversation with his quarterbacks, though. He also got in a shot at Tom Brady, who was found to have likely played a role in the Deflate Gate scandal, according to the recently released Wells Report.

“I’ve always had a lot of respect for [Brady], but I also lose a lot of respect for people that cheat,” Pettine said.

Presumably, that means he also lost a lot of respect for his general manager, Ray Farmer, who will start the season by serving a four-game suspension for sending illegal game-day communications.

It’s ironic that the Browns are taking shots at the Patriots, given that New England would never have emerged as the most dominant team of our generation had Cleveland not fired Bill Belichick all those years ago.

Want to talk more about these and other headlines? Join Michael Lombardo for his weekly NFL Chat on Friday at 2pm EST. But you don’t have to wait until then … you can ask your question now!


About Michael Lombardo

Michael Lombardo

Michael Lombardo has spent more than 10 years as a team expert at Scout.com, primarily covering the Chargers, Cardinals and Panthers. He has been published by the NFL Network, Fox Sports and other venues.