Per The Athletic’s Zak Keefer, one of the newest Indianapolis Colts, Pro Bowl pass rusher Yannick Ngakoue, had a few things to say about playing for defensive coordinator Gus Bradley again and his now infamous ‘LEO’ position on Thursday:
Ngakoue on the LEO spot: "That guy has to run sideline to sideline, get to the QB, stuff the edge, hammer blockers. I feel like it fits my personality and my playing style super perfect. God doesn’t make any mistakes at all. So, it was meant for me to be here."— Zak Keefer (@zkeefer) March 17, 2022
It doesn’t seem out of line to say that Ngakoue could be the Colts’ best edge rusher since franchise great Robert Mathis recorded 19.5 total sacks back in 2013 (although veteran Justin Houston was pretty darn good with 11.0 sacks in 2019 all things considered).
[Meanwhile, former starting outside linebacker Erik Walden somehow recorded 11.0 sacks back in 2016, despite not being regarded as a pure pass rusher, who knew].
Ngakoue, as an ace speed rusher, recorded 10.0 sacks and 62 total QB pressures in 2021.
Still only 26 years old (Ngakoue will turn 27 in a few weeks), his best football may seemingly be ahead of him—especially getting to play alongside All-Pro DeForest Buckner to free up double teams and also allow Ngakoue to ‘clean up’ after opposing quarterbacks try escaping D-Fo’s initial interior pressure—only to fall into Ngakoue’s clutches unsuspectingly.
It’s safe to say that Ngakoue’s been one of the best to consistently get after the quarterback in recent seasons:
Yeah, I'm still plenty excited for Yannick Ngakoue.— Luke Schultheis (@LuckAtLuke) March 18, 2022
There's a lot of terrorizing of opposing quarterbacks that should take place off the edge for the #Colts for hopefully years to come (via @NextGenStats). pic.twitter.com/pfhvaPsRvW
And the Colts entered the early offseason with an impact veteran pass rusher high on their priority wish list:
“But you know, rushing the passer in this league, it’s not just a talent, there’s a know-how and experience factor that comes (into play),” said Colts general manager Chris Ballard a few weeks ago on ‘The Dan Dakich Show’. “Some guys that have been playing in this league a long time just understand how to set a (offensive) tackle up and finish when they need to finish, so that’s an area that we definitely have to get better at.”
It just so happens that the Colts found the rare pass rusher, who is still experienced as a six-year veteran with 87 career starts, but also still fits with their defensive core to continue building around—along with the likes of Buckner, All-Pro linebacker Darius Leonard, and Pro Bowl cornerback Kenny Moore II (all in their mid to late twenties).
Routinely lining up ‘wide 9’ on the weak-side as the LEO, utilizing his speed, athleticism, and pass rushing prowess (featuring the notorious cross chop/club)—while playing all out to hunt the quarterback, Ngakoue has the potential to be a defensive force next season:
Yannick Ngakoue in 2021:— Indianapolis Colts (@Colts) March 17, 2022
23 QB hits
63 pressures pic.twitter.com/ZegAa8zXhQ
We’ll see for ourselves!