Round two between the Titans and Jaguars commences on Thursday Night, and improbably, Tennessee has a three-game winning streak against Jacksonville. Yes, they seem to be a thorn in the Jaguars’ side, and on Thursday Night on the road they’ll need to continue on that path in order to keep their season alive.
The Jaguars’ defense hasn’t been close to as good as it was in 2017, only putting up 24 sacks through 13 weeks (sixth fewest in the league) in comparison to the 55 they put up last year (second most). Still, this is a decent squad, and one of the more impressive players on this defense has been third-year defensive end Yannick Ngakoue.
In 2017, Ngakoue made the Pro Bowl as one of the stars of the Jaguars defense, putting up 12 sacks, 10 tackles for loss, a league leading six forced fumbles, and 23 quarterback hits. Through 12 games in 2018, Ngakoue only has seven sacks, but actually has more quarterback hits this season (25) and the same amount of tackles for loss (10). In fact, Ngakoue’s 25 QB hits are tied with Chiefs outside linebacker Dee Ford for the second most this season (behind human freight train Aaron Donald’s 32).
The good news? In five career games against the Titans, Ngakoue has managed one sack, two tackles for loss and three quarterback hits. So Tennessee has done a nice job for minimizing this young savage’s impact, but with a poor offensive line (outside of Taylor Lewan), will they be able to contain the beast?
Let’s take a look at what the Titans have to keep in mind in this week’s Titans Enemy Profile.
At this point Taylor Lewan is very familiar with Ngakoue’s skill set, and on Ngakoue’s appearance on this year’s NFL Top 100, Lewan mentioned the pass rusher’s trademark move; the cross chop. With this, Ngakoue will block a stab from the tackle with his left arm then counter it with a chop from his right, giving him outside leverage and pressure on the quarterback.
On his strip sack on Andrew Luck from last week (wiped off due to a holding penalty), Ngakoue doesn’t chop, but he does counter left tackle Anthony Costonzo’s stab move with his left hand. He’s able to get outside on Costonzo and swats the ball out of Luck’s hands. The play doesn’t count, but Ngakoue’s presence is felt.
Near the end of the first half of the same game, Ngakoue nearly picked up a sack on Luck, but instead got a QB hit out of it. Regardless, he still makes Luck’s life a living hell by putting the pressure on him, again working against Castonzo.
Like before, Ngakoue uses a counter move to work against the stab, but this time he goes a bit further by stopping himself and using his left arm to shove Castonzo aside. As he’s doing this he ducks his head to get by and win the power struggle. Despite his best efforts, Luck is able to get this ball out to Eric Ebron, but just barely.
Yannick Ngakoue would eventually get a sack later in the game, but it was essentially a coverage sack. The point is that this dude is a freak pass rusher, and despite Tennessee’s success against him, he should not be overlooked heading into Thursday’s AFC South showdown.