Most of the talk about the Jacksonville Jaguars defense rightfully centers on Defensive Player of the Year candidate Calais Campbell and cornerbacks A.J. Bouye or Jalen Ramsey, there is a defensive player who has somehow gone under the radar, as far as plaudits, and is just 2.5 sacks off Calais Campbell’s mark of 11.5 sacks. Former third round pick Yannick Ngakoue had another fantastic performance on Sunday against the Cleveland Browns, and was a big factor in why the Jaguars won the game.
Ngakoue finished the day with two and a half sacks, including two forced fumbles. One of those strip sacks on rookie DeShone Kizer was the fumble that was recovered in the endzone and sealed the win for the Jaguars.
Ngakoue was a menace to the Browns, living in the backfield and in Kizer’s ear most of the game. As mentioned, he ended the day with 2.5 sacks and was close to a handful more, but more importantly he had two crucial strip sacks late in the game when the Jaguars needed someone to make a play. Right after the two-minute warning, Ngakoue and Campbell combined to sack Kizer and force a fumble that was recovered by Dante Fowler Jr., that should have been the game ending touchdown, but the whistle was blown prematurely and the Jaguars simply got the ball back. One drive later however, the ball did not lie as the kids like to say, and Ngakoue forced another fumble on a sack for the game winning touchdown.
"Yannick is a bully," Jaguars linebacker Myles Jack told Mike DiRocco of ESPN after Sunday’s win. “He’s a bully off the field and on the field, but especially on the field. Left tackles, he’s a problem. I’m proud to have him on my team. He’s a great competitor. I love having 91 rushing the passer on third-and-long. I love it. If Yan is fighting a grizzly bear, help the grizzly bear."
As a rookie Ngakoue burst on to the scene taking the starting defensive end job from first-round pick Fowler and setting the franchise rookie record for sacks with eight. Through 10 games in the 2017 season, Ngakoue has already passed that mark with nine and he doesn’t appear to be slowing down. It’s not just the sacks with Ngakoue this year though, as he has five forced fumbles and is second on the team in pressures with 45 (per Pro Football Focus), which is only two less than Campbell.
Ngakoue likes getting the sacks, but he told DiRocco that he’s really after the football and when you watch him on game day you can see that’s always in his mind. Whenever Ngakoue gets around the edge, he immediately chops his arm down, trying to strip the ball out of the quarterback’s hand. He’s gone from being a solid pass rusher who can get some sacks as a rookie, to a consistent pressure maker and play maker as an edge rusher.
The Jaguars have been trying to find Tony Brackens again for years and it looks like they might have found him.
Yannick Ngakoue is the pass rusher the Jaguars have been looking for.