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Five things to know about Dante Fowler Jr.

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The Washington Commanders have been hard at work retooling their pass rush, and after signing Dorance Armstrong, head coach Dan Quinn and general manager Adam Peters dipped into the Cowboys' talent pool again to sign Dante Fowler Jr. Here are five things to know about the former first-round pick.

1. He was a talented high school and college student athlete.

While Fowler has had a winding path in the NFL, few would dispute that he's an impressive athlete with a strong skill set. That much has been true since the early days of his playing career, when he was terrorizing quarterbacks at the high school and college levels.

Fowler played football and was a member of the track team in Lakewood High School in St. Petersburg, Florida, but most of his notoriety came on the field. ESPN ranked him as the No. 71 prospect in the country, as he helped his school notch a 7-4 record during his senior year. He amassed several accolades, including an Honorable Mention All-American honor by Sports Illustrated, and was invited to compete in the 2012 Under Armour All-American game.

Fowler received offers from nine schools but chose Florida over Florida State, Auburn, Georgia and several others. While he wasn't a full-time starter as a freshman, he did get his share of snaps, which helped him get named to the SEC Coaches' All-Freshman team. His last two seasons were filled with more recognition. He was an All-SEC selection in 2013 and an All-American in 2014, recording 60 tackles, 15 of which were for a loss, and 8.5 sack.

Fowler made gradual improvements in each of his three seasons with the Gators, finishing his college career with 140 tackles and 14.5 sacks. His final season, which saw him hit career highs in nearly every category, was enough to convince analysts that he was worth a first-round pick.

2. Aaron Donald believed in his skill set.

It took a while for Fowler's path to lead him to the Los Angeles Rams. After spending three full seasons with the Jacksonville Jaguars, who took him with the No. 3 overall pick in 2015, he was traded to the Rams for a compensatory third-round pick and a fifth-round pick. Up to that point, Fowler had been a rotational piece with middling stats, but Aaron Donald, one of the best defensive players of all time, believed in what he could offer.

"He's a guy that can definitely get double-digit sacks every season," Donald told Rams Wire. "That's just the type of pass rusher he is. Him just learning and working and continuing to learn the game and his skills and how he's supposed to play, I feel like the sky's the limit for Dante."

The Rams eased Fowler into their system when they traded for him at the deadline, although he made the most of his snaps with five tackles, a sack, a quarterback hit, a pass breakup, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery in his first two games against the Saints and Seahawks. From that point on, he was in the starting lineup, finishing the season with 30 tackles and four sacks.

Fowler remained in the starting lineup during the 2019 season, and just as Donald predicted, he did finish with double-digit sacks, recording a career-high 11.5 with 16 quarterback hits. His most dominant performance came in Week 7, when he recorded three sacks, seven tackles and a forced fumble.

"He's always been a great athlete and can be a great football player," Donald said. "Just keep finding ways to get better, don't be satisfied, keep working and I feel like the sky's the limit for Dante and he's getting better each week."

Take a look back at Dante Fowler Jr.'s previous stops before coming to Washington. (Photos via The Associated Press)

3. This is far from the first time he's played for Dan Quinn.

Fowler might know Quinn better than any player on the Commanders' roster.

Quinn, who went from being the Seahawks' assistant head coach/defensive line coach to the Gators' defensive coordinator, was part of the staff that recruited Fowler to Florida and coached him for two seasons.

Eight years later, when Quinn was in the final year of his tenure as the Falcons' head coach, Fowler rejoined his former defensive coordinator after his career season with the Rams. It was a short reunion, with Quinn being relieved of his duties early into the 2020 season, but the two were back together again two seasons later with the Cowboys.

Fowler's time in Dallas was much more successful. In 34 games, Fowler recorded 10 sacks and 40 tackles with five pass breakups and three forced fumbles.

The 2024 season will mark the fourth time Fowler has played for Quinn, so what is it about the head coach that keeps attracting Fowler? It's all about shared experiences and perspective on the sport.

"Dan Quinn is just a real dude and a real coach," Fowler said. "[He's] A guy that just trusts and believes in me, so why not want to go and play for a guy like that? ... I love the game a lot," Fowler said. "This game has done a lot for me and my family, and he treats it the same type of way."

4. He delivered a clutch play in the 2018 NFC Championship.

The 2018 season was a special one for the Rams. An 8-0 start helped them win the NFC West with a 13-3 record, earning them a first-round bye in the postseason and a trip to the Super Bowl.

You could argue that the Rams wouldn't even have gotten to their Super Bowl matchup against the New England Patriots had it not been for Fowler.

The Rams were in a battle with the Saints in the NFC Championship. Drew Brees had the team up by 13 in the first quarter, and while the Rams did fight back to tie the score in the fourth quarter, the momentum favored New Orleans for most of the evening.

Greg Zuerlein's 48-yard field goal with 15 seconds left sent things to overtime with the score knotted up at 23. The Saints got the ball first, but their chances at advancing vanished four plays later.

On second-and-16 at the Saints' 34-yard line, Fowler spun past New Orleans' offensive line and raised his hands up to obscure Brees' vision, knocking the quarterback to the ground after he released his pass. That altered the throw enough to make it an easy interception for John Johnson III at the Saints' 46-yard line.

Five plays later, Zuerlein kicked a 57-yard field goal to give the Rams the win.

"You made that play for us," Donald said to Fowler after the game. "I appreciate you."

5. He has high expectations for Washington's defense.

The Commanders were the worst defense in the NFL in almost every metric last year, ranking last in yards and points allowed. Fowler doesn't think that's going to be the case in 2024 with Quinn and defensive coordinator Joe Whitt Jr. running the show.

"There's a lot of good pieces here," Fowler said during his press conference.

Fowler called out Daron Payne and Jonathan Allen as two players he's most excited to play with, but the recent additions Washington made in free agency play a role in while he has confidence in Washington's talent. Most of the changes have come up front, with Frankie Luvu, Armstrong and Bobby Wagner coming in to revitalize a unit that finished third in yards allowed in 2022.

Fowler believes his skill set will gel with what Allen, Payne and the rest of the defense bring. As for what that role is, he has no idea yet. He does know what he wants to be, though, and that someone who can help set the tone for him and his teammates.

"All I know is I expect for me to put pressure on the quarterback and go out there and make plays for this defense," Fowler said.

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