Bears add Yannick Ngakoue to bolster league-worst cross rush
Courtney Cronin, ESPN Workers AuthorAug 5, 2023, 06:00 AM ET
LAKE FOREST, Sick. — Friday’s setup was nothing new for Yannick Ngakoue.
The pass-rusher answered questions at his fifth introductory information convention in 5 seasons about his new set of teammates, coaches and expectations.
For a pass-rusher as productive as Ngakoue, having racked up no less than eight sacks in each season of his NFL profession, the merry-go-round of groups — which now contains the Chicago Bears — has turn into the norm for the reason that 2020 season.
But, one thing about this feels totally different for Ngakoue. Pointing to a tattoo of a bear on his proper hand, the pass-rusher stated his journey to Chicago aligns with the place he’s in his profession. If the defensive finish replicates the 9.5-sack season he had a 12 months in the past in Indianapolis, a long-term deal by the age of 30 is likely to be attainable.
“It was an incredible match,” Ngakoue stated. “Going again to what this tradition means right here, simply the historical past right here and in addition, it’s an incredible transition — straightforward transition — with my place coach [Travis Smith] and my defensive coordinator [Alan Williams].”
For the Bears, getting any stage of manufacturing much like what Ngakoue generated the previous 4 seasons would make the one-year, $10.5 million funding value it.
Chicago’s pursuit of cross rush assistance is as pivotal to the crew’s development because the additions the Bears made on offense to assist Justin Fields turn into a franchise quarterback. Common supervisor Ryan Poles has remained regular the previous few months, discovering methods so as to add to the roster whereas being sensible about what the Bears can do in a single offseason.
However the evident want alongside the line of defense that generated 20 sacks (the fewest within the NFL) and pressured opposing quarterbacks on 22% of cross performs (second worst) couldn’t be ignored.
The addition of DeMarcus Walker at edge rusher was not sufficient. The Bears hope for development in defensive ends Trevis Gipson and Dominique Robinson, however wanted to take a giant swing on a participant who might be dropped in, adapt and produce shortly. Ngakoue did that in Minnesota (ending because the Vikings’ sack chief in 2020 in six video games), Baltimore, Las Vegas and Indianapolis.
The Bears are wanting to see if he can elevate the ceiling of their total line of defense.
“He’s full tilt when he practices, and he retains himself in nice form,” coach Matt Eberflus stated. “To be actually good and efficient in cross speeding, you’ve bought to deliver it and also you’ve bought to deliver it each single down. You may’t take a play off and that takes being in nice form, and also you’ve bought to have that mentality.”
For perspective, there have been 27 particular person defensive linemen with greater than seven sacks final season, together with Ngakoue with the Colts. Chicago bought 7.5 from its total group of defensive linemen mixed. The Bears had been led in sacks by then-rookie security Jaquan Brisker (4).
Chicago’s secondary will not need to overcompensate prefer it did in 2022, if they’ve a formidable cross rush to lean on.
“That is an enormous distinction,” security Eddie Jackson stated. “ whenever you bought that rush, the quarterback ain’t bought the time to take a seat again there and pat the ball all day. … Simply to have that stress up entrance, man, it helps us so much within the again finish. We get to capitalize off of that as properly.”
After all, Ngakoue can’t do it on his personal. The rotation alongside the line of defense — which Eberflus says the Professional Bowler will probably be a part of greater than on pass-rushing downs, regardless of deficiencies in opposition to the run — depends on the manufacturing of others.
That’s the place Walker’s career-high seven sacks he had with Tennessee final 12 months come into play. For Robinson, who labored with 14-year NFL veteran edge rusher Robert Mathis this offseason, development is pivotal to the crew’s success up entrance.
“We would have liked to set edges higher,” Williams stated. “We would have liked to hurry the passer higher. Win our one-on-ones, play with extra violence when it comes to after we are working our run stunts and our video games to be extra bodily. One different factor is excellence within the particulars.”
The Bears’ subtractions in 2022 had been a part of the start levels of the crew’s rebuild. The tone has modified this season with additions throughout the protection. The Bears introduced in Tremaine Edmunds and T.J. Edwards to steer at linebacker. They drafted cornerbacks Tyrique Stevenson and Terell Smith to fortify the secondary.
And now they’ve the highest free agent pass-rusher to raise a unit from the basement of the NFL.