Yannick Ngakoue may have heard the whispers.
After a couple of subpar seasons and the fact that he was with three teams in 2020, Ngakoue entered this offseason with some red flags about his pending free agency. Scouts around the league wondered if Ngakoue may have had some issues with not always playing hard.
At the Las Vegas Raiders’ minicamp last week, Ngakoue said he self critiqued himself and he is looking to be a much better player than he was with the Minnesota Vikings and Baltimore Ravens last year. He was originally with the Jacksonville Jaguars and was traded twice in 2020, which is rare.
Ngakoue ended up signing a two-year, $26 million deal with the Raiders to reunite with defensive coordinator Gus Bradley, who was the head coach in Jacksonville when he was drafted. Ngakoue, who worked out on his own during the OTAs, said he has gained 12 pounds of muscle and is up to 258 pounds.
It’s all a part of his self improvement regime.
“I was never given a target weight. At the end of the day, I just collected all of my thoughts and everything that I went through as far as Minnesota and Baltimore, and I just wanted to critique myself and see where I could be a better player at,” Ngakoue said. “I feel like putting more muscle on and still keeping that lean mass will help me be effective. I’m definitely not the same player that was on those two teams. That’s the main reason why I did it, I was trying to get better. The more weight you have, the more you can carry it, I feel like the more effective you can be at my position.”
Interesting thoughts, to say the least.
Ngakoue has 45.5 sacks in five NFL seasons. Yet, he had 20 of those sacks in his first two seasons and he hasn’t registered double-digit sacks since he had 12 in 2017. He is ready to be a leader in Las Vegas, though.
“I just want to be the motor to this defense, the motor to the defensive line,” Ngakoue said. “Maxx (Crosby) and myself are both identifying ourselves as the guys that need to put this team on our back as far as the defensive side of the ball. Guys will follow as it goes, you just have to set that standard from here on out. That’s what’s going to happen. Other years don’t matter anymore, it’s a whole new era.”
The Raiders sure hope so.