Yannick Ngakoue bullies QBs, and Jags like his chances vs. grizzly bear

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Yannick Ngakoue had just played arguably the best game of his brief career, so naturally his Jacksonville Jaguars teammates were having fun with him.

The loudest was linebacker Myles Jack, who was telling the few stragglers left in the visitors’ locker room at FirstEnergy Stadium that Ngakoue is a classic bully.

“Yan would take your lunch money,” Jack said. “Yan is a full-time bully. He doesn’t ever stop being a bully. And when he puts the helmet on, it’s like magnified by 10 because he can get away with it. He can legally be a bully."

Ngakoue didn’t like Jack’s joke, but Jack really isn’t wrong about the on-field part. Ngakoue has been bullying offensive tackles and quarterbacks from the moment he first stepped on the field as a rookie in 2016. The defensive end set the franchise’s rookie sack record with 8.0 last season and already has 9.0 this year after getting 2.5 in the Jaguars’ 19-7 victory over Cleveland on Sunday.

Ngakoue doesn’t just get sacks, though. He gets the ball out. He has forced an NFL-high nine fumbles since the start of the 2016 season and seven of those have come on strip-sacks. Per ESPN Stats & Information, Ngakoue is tied with Atlanta’s Vic Beasley for the most strip-sacks during that span.

As far as Ngakoue is concerned, it’s the turnovers that matter the most.

“Yeah, it’s nice to get a sack,” Ngakoue said while mimicking applause. “It’s cool. But the great ones get the ball out, and that’s what I’m trying to do.”

He’s done it more than some of those greats. Baltimore’s Terrell Suggs has six strip-sacks since the start of 2016, and there are three others with five: the New York Giants’ Jason Pierre-Paul, Arizona’s Chandler Jones and the Los Angeles Rams’ Aaron Donald.

Ngakoue did it twice against Browns quarterback DeShone Kizer on Sunday. Kizer recovered the first fumble in the first quarter, but the second bounced into the end zone and Telvin Smith recovered it for a touchdown with less than two minutes remaining in the fourth quarter.

“One thing we talk about, it’s good to get sacks, but to get strip-sacks is what we really want,” defensive tackle Malik Jackson said. “It’s good to get the quarterback down, but we want that ball. We live for that ball.

“You’ve got to get that ball out, and like I said he just has a knack for it.”

Ngakoue has a simple formula. Get a good burst off the line of scrimmage, use a move called the cross-chop -- swiping the offensive tackle’s arms down with his inside arm while using the other arm to help clear the tackle's hips and get around him -- and swat the quarterback’s arm.

“God gave me that ability and I’m just trying to take advantage of it,” Ngakoue said. “I’m just trying to each and every day focus and [use] the same preparation I’ve been [using] as far as film study and going hard in practice. And I feel like it’s paying off.

“It’s all about keying the ball, and it’s all about capitalizing on what the offensive tackle gives you.”

Ngakoue is so good at forcing fumbles, he has defensive end Calais Campbell -- who is in his 10th season and has a team-high 11.5 sacks -- shaking his head in amazement.

“When you’ve got a first step like he has and a mean cross-chop, he works it,” Campbell said. “Like Bruce Lee said, ‘I’d rather face a guy who practices 10,000 kicks once than a guy who practices one kick 10,000 times.’

“Yan, his cross-chop, people know it’s coming and they still can’t stop it.”

What’s just as important to Ngakoue’s success -- and isn’t nearly as visible to those outside the team -- is his relentlessness. Ngakoue broke Tony Brackens’ franchise rookie sack record last season but came back this spring and said that what he did last year wasn’t good enough. He’s never satisfied with what he’s done because he always believes he can do more.

That’s his attitude in the weight room, meeting room, and on the field, safety Tashaun Gipson said.

“He just doesn’t stop,” Gipson said. “He’s got a motor, man. He goes hard. He’s that guy. He wants to be the best and he doesn’t have a problem with working, trying to be the best, so you’ve got to respect that.”

His teammates do, but that doesn’t stop them from making fun of him.

"Yannick is a bully," Jack repeated. “He’s a bully off the field and on the field, but especially on the field. Left tackles, he’s a problem. I’m proud to have him on my team. He’s a great competitor. I love having 91 rushing the passer on third-and-long. I love it.

"If Yan is fighting a grizzly bear, help the grizzly bear."