After what could be described as a poor 2018 season, Jacksonville Jaguars defensive end Yannick Ngakoue has already begun focusing on 2019.
The 2017 was Yannick Ngakoue’s coming out party in the NFL. The third-round pick in 2016, he registered 12 sacks, had made a name for himself as a strip-sack artist and was one of the rising pass rushers in the league.
Then 2018 happened. The Jaguars didn’t come close to achieving what was expected of them. The sack totals dropped off, the pass rush wasn’t as dominant and the Jaguars, who were believed to be a good bet to make it to Super Bowl 53 after the second week in the NFL season, where an afterthought.
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Ngakoue personally wants to change that perception of this organization. He has already set his sights on making 2019 a personal statement – one that will help the Jaguars rise above the doubt and contend once again for a playoff berth.
"“The years I’ve had before, this year is going to make those years nothing,” Ngakoue told jaguars.com from Radio Row before Super Bowl LIII."
This might be the lightning rod that ignites the passion again for this locker room. As dominant a player Ngakoue can be at times, his play on the field dipped in 2018. What was thought to be a high season that led to a contract extension and a place amongst the elite defensive stars in the NFL has to wait another season.
It’s hard to think that a player who already has 29.5 sacks in three seasons in the NFL had a “down” year, but the proof is in the fact the entire Jaguars defense took a step back last year. He and Pro Bowler Calais Campbell are still one of the most feared pass rushing duos in the league. Both expect to dominate on the outside once again, showing the two have not lost their ability to change how offensive coordinators game plan on Sundays.
in 2018, he registered 9.5 sacks and a team-high 33 pressures.
If you doubt Ngakoue can take the next step in this maturation on the field, you might just lose that bet. Nothing seems to motive him more than someone saying he cannot get the job done.
And now, with his role with the team potentially meaning he becomes more of a leader, there is nothing we should bet against when No. 91 is on the field.
"“I’m telling you: I was in a way embarrassed from this season … because I hold myself to a high standard – a really high standard,” Ngakoue said."
Now that Campbell has assured the Jaguars faithful he will return for the 2019 season, Ngakoue can continue to learn from one of the best in the game. It could also mean he may eclipse the 12 sacks he recorded in 2017.
Should that happen, a contract extension could mean he is paid like one of the biggest and baddest pass rushers in the NFL.
As always, Ngakoue uses his “under the radar” recognition as another way to motivate himself and to prove just how good he is and how great he can be.
"“You guys don’t talk about me enough, but after the season you guys will definitely want to talk about me,” he said. “It’s fact.”"