There will plenty of NFL players who take the “next step” in 2018. Former New England Patriots pass rusher Willie McGinest believes Jacksonville Jaguars defensive end Yannick Ngakoue will be one of those making the leap.
The Jacksonville Jaguars boasted one of the best pass rushes in the league last season, with Yannick Ngakoue finishing second on the team with 12 sacks in the regular season and one in the postseason. He could supplant Calais Campbell as the lead pass rusher for Jacksonville this season.
"“He has had an impressive two seasons already (20 total sacks) but is still raw. Ngakoue, though immensely talented, still has a lot of moves and techniques that he can add to his repertoire. He is explosive, athletic, cat-quick and has great instincts, but I’d like to see him use his hands more,” McGinest wrote.”"
A third-round pick out of Maryland in 2016, he has moved past former first-round draft pick Dante Fowler, Jr on the depth chart. His intensity on the field, playing with a chip on his shoulder has made opponents take notice of where he is on passing downs.
"“He’s a smaller defensive end (6-2, 246) so opponents want to grab him. He can keep those blockers off of him if he learns more hand techniques,” McGinest added. “Once he learns how to better use his leverage and things of that nature, he’ll be more consistent and could become a great pass rusher for years to come. Even with 12 sacks in 2017, he is just scratching the surface of his potential.”"
That’s bad news for the 13 opponents the Jaguars face this coming season.
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Ngakoue is not alone as McGinest singled out Derek Barnett of the Philadelphia Eagles, Bradley Chubb of the Denver Broncos, Garrett Myles of the Cleveland Browns and Takkarist McKinley of the Atlanta Falcons as future pass rush stars.
Last season, Campbell (14.5), Ngakoue (12), Malik Jackson (8) and Fowler (8) accounted for 42.5 of the 55 sacks the Jaguars had last year. The depth and health of the defense helped the team take a huge step forward as a unit.
Campbell, who spoke about the defense before hosting a Microsoft Coding Camp for 25 youngsters from the Boys and Girls Club of Northeast Florida on Saturday morning, is excited about the team’s defense this season.
"“We were healthy the whole year (in 2017),” Campbell said. “I pray it’s that way again this year, but in the game of football things come up for whatever it may be for a week or two, you to have a lot of depth on the team.“Even when people stay healthy, you want to have good depth because you rotate so you can stay fresh the who year.”"
Ngakoue is projected to collect 12 or more sacks this season, according to McGinest’s story.