FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- To hear Dante Fowler talk about it, his number change was simply a switch back to his childhood number.
"I was No. 6 since I was 10 years old," said Fowler. "In little league, in high school, at the University of Florida. When I got to the NFL, I had to wear 56 but now they changed the rule."
Think a little deeper and this change may double as a symbolic of a return to old form, to the Fowler that offensive lineman across the NFC West dreaded seeing at least twice a year when he was in L.A.
It's no secret that 2020 was a down year for Fowler, who tallied only three and a half sacks on the season. A far cry from the 11.5 sacks he racked up the season before with the Rams. Fowler battled a troublesome ankle injury which limited his effectiveness on the line. In the early goings of this season, he's shown that it doesn't seem to be a lingering issue.
"My ankle was hurt last year and now going into this year and knowing it's not hurting; I can do what I want to do," said Fowler. "I haven't had to worry about lateral movement or getting off the blocks. That [Bucs] game last week showed me I was ready to go and I'm getting back to myself."
That was clear as he slipped past the entirety of the Bucs offensive line to sack Brady en route to a timely strip of the ball on Sunday. A strip sack that saved the game from getting out of hand early. A great sign for a guy who had to prove his worth coming into an entirely new coaching regime this season.
This is Dean Pees first year running the defense, which could be a major factor in Fowler's return to form on the line. From Week 1 to Week 2, we saw a huge jump in production on the defensive line, with three sacks, two forced fumbles, and six hits on Tom Brady.
A scary thought, this is just the tip of the iceberg for this core as they continue to jell together week after week. With that in mind it's no surprise why Fowler loves Dean Pees' defensive schemes so much.
"I love Dean's defense," Fowler said. "You're not just standing in one place he's moving us around. He's put a lot of players in a position to make great plays, it's up to us to make them. It's my favorite defense since Wade Phillips in L.A. when we went to the Super Bowl. We did a lot of good things and I had a really great season. I love this defense."
Get an inside look at the matchup between the Atlanta Falcons and Tampa Bay Buccaneers during Week 2 of 2021.