What more is there to say about the Jaguars defense? From Calais Campbell to Jalen Ramsey, Malik Jackson, AJ Bouye, Telvin Smith, Myles Jack, Yannick Ngakoue, Tashaun Gipson, Barry Church, and Marcell Dareus, the team is loaded with defensive talent in the front seven and in the secondary. Of those players, Campbell, Jackson, Bouye, Gipson, Church and Dareus were all free agent/mid season acquisitions.
One of the team’s homegrown talents experienced a breakout year in 2017. That talent is defensive end Yannick Ngakoue. In his sophomore season, Ngakoue created 12 sacks while leading the league in forced fumbles with six (excluding the forced fumble he had on Ben Roethlisberger in the postseason). Ngakoue cemented himself as one of the Jaguars’ best pass rushers, forming a deadly combo with fellow defensive end (and defensive tackle) Calais Campbell; The two combined for 26.5 sacks in 2017.
In his first two seasons, Ngakoue already has 20 career sacks, an impressive feat for a third-round pick. Last season, he wasted no time in making an impact, sacking the QB twice in week 1 at Houston while also forcing two fumbles. He would go on to have three more games where he posted at least two sacks.
Ngakoue did not post a single sack against the Titans in the two matchups last season, but don’t let that fool you. The Titans still need to keep an eye on Ngakoue as he is becoming a force at the defensive end position.
The Jaguars’ front seven, needless to say, is stacked, allowing Ngakoue to show off his skill set with relative ease. Ngakoue’s signature move as a pass rusher is his cross chop, where he puts his hand up and swipes away the lineman’s hands to create leverage, then chops him to leave the lineman in the dust.
Ngakoue’s first four sacks on the year came from this chop move. It’s important to note that on both of the plays above, Ngakoue’s footwork advances him outside of the left tackle, allowing him to set up the cross chop perfectly.
Ngakoue doesn’t just need to rely on the chop to create pressure, though, as shown up here. He uses slower, more hesitant footwork on this play, hopping around the left tackle and getting easy access to the quarterback. He chops the ball out of Deshone Kizer’s hands, and though it’s recovered by the Browns, Ngakoue’s impact on the play was there.
The Browns game was one of two games (week 1 at Houston) where Ngakoue forced two fumbles. It was also one of two games (Week 7 at Indianapolis) where he put up 2.5 sacks. Ngakoue’s techniques and pure athleticism are both matched by his consistency to put up dangerous numbers.
Like Campbell, Ngakoue is also a dangerous pass rusher even when he’s moved around the front.
On this stunt, Ngakoue is lined up at defensive tackle in the A-gap between the left guard and center. Instead of rushing there, Ngakoue uses the twist to go up the B-gap between the right guard and right tackle. He jump cuts the guard and swims by him, using his speed to chase down Jimmy Garoppolo for the sack. This is easily one of the best plays of Ngakoue’s career, and is a perfect showcasing of his quickness and power.
Finally, we must end Ngakoue’s highlight reel on this play against the Bengals. How he’s able to knock down the running back after losing his balance I have no idea, but this is spectacular either way.
Yannick Ngakoue is on his way to becoming a premiere pass rusher. His hands, footwork, power, and technique to get past the offensive line give the Jaguars a dominant young defensive end with the ability to consistently win outside leverage on a front that already causes enough problems on its own. He may not be the Jaguars’ most valuable defender (yet), but he doesn’t need to be considering how stacked that roster is.
A force Jacksonville can rely on to cause sacks and pop the ball out of the quarterback’s hands, Ngakoue is a problem the Titans must look to eliminate whenever they face off against the Jaguars in 2018.