Yannick Ngakoue has experienced a lot of change within the past year, but now he's getting back to his roots.
Friday afternoon, the former Pro Bowl defensive end signed his deal to officially become a member of the Las Vegas Raiders, and reunite with his former defensive coordinator Gus Bradley, and former college teammate Quinton Jefferson.
Last season, Ngakoue was traded from the Jacksonville Jaguars to the Minnesota Vikings, and eventually finished the season on the Baltimore Ravens. With all of that relocating comes with learning new schemes, which is always a difficult task, especially in a condensed period of time. When Ngakoue hit the free agency market this year, it was clear he wanted to play in a place where he could feel comfortable and be surrounded by people who know him best.
"It was a no-brainer," Ngakoue told reporters Friday. "Coach Gus [Bradley] had input in drafting me back in 2016, he knows what I bring to this game. I feel like that's a coach that knows how to utilize my skillset to make it super effective to help this team as best as possible. With Gus being here, it's like another father figure for me, another guy that can help me out."
In defensive coordinator Gus Bradley's 4-3 scheme, it's essential the defense has capable pass rushers who can pressure the quarterback regularly. In each of the last five seasons, Ngakoue has finished with eight or more sacks, but he thrived under Bradley his rookie season, totaling one interception, two passes defensed, and four forced fumbles. The two clearly share a strong connection, but Bradley isn't the only one tight with Ngakoue.
For the first time since their college days at the University of Maryland, Ngakoue will be rejoining forces with Quinton Jefferson. The former Terrapins played three years together and amassed 31.5 sacks, 51.5 tackles for loss, and 190 tackles. In addition to their chemistry on the field, the pair share a lot of similarities off the field.
"It's a great thing, it's a beautiful thing," Ngakoue said when asked about reuniting with Jefferson. "That's a guy I got drafted with, we have the same birth date, we have the same goals as far as we wanted to be remembered as men, as football players. It's divine timing having a guy like that being able to rush with and play football with."
The foundation is in place for Ngakoue to thrive next season as a member of the Silver and Black. His partnership with Bradley and Jefferson will make a difference, but he has lofty expectations for the defensive line, and the defense as a whole.
"You've got guys [the Raiders] just signed like Soloman Thomas, Quinton Jefferson, you've got Maxx [Crosby] up there. You've got a lot of defensive talent, defensive linemen that if we can just gel together, and put the knowledge we have in terms of playing the run and the pass rush, then we can turn this thing around and make it really special, and get over the hump."
View photos of new Raiders defensive end Yannick Ngakoue in action. Over his five-year career, the 2017 Pro Bowler has appeared in 78 contests with 70 starts, compiling 145 tackles, 45.5 sacks, two interceptions including one returned for a touchdown, 10 passes defensed, 18 forced fumbles and three fumble recoveries.