Yannick Ngakoue took first-team reps with Maxx Crosby on the opposite side during week one of training camp. The pads have yet to come on, so nothing is set in stone, but according to one source, Ngakoue and Crosby have seen the majority of first-team reps, with defensive tackles Quinton Jefferson and Johnathan Hankins on the inside.
Defensive line coach Rod Marinelli clearly favors the pass rush abilities of Crosby and Ngakoue over the run-stopping ability of Clelin Ferrell. The 4th overall pick in the 2019 draft is considered the primary backup, and according to the same source, he has seen the fifth-most snaps at practice on the defensive line.
After Ferrell, Carl Nassib will be the fourth defensive end. The defensive tackle spot is a bit deeper. There is no clear indication from the coaching staff which of the three – Darius Philon, Solomon Thomas, or Kendal Vickers – will get the most snaps on the inside after Jefferson and Hankins.
However, early impressions suggest the interior of the defensive line will be dependent on the down and distance. Again, with no pads, nothing is established yet for the Raiders, who are relying on their defensive line to carry the defense.
As camp goes on, we will get a more clear picture of who will play, and who will likely be cut. But if there is one player who will be the alpha for this defensive line, his name is Yannick Ngakoue.
“We have to get after the quarterback, so it all starts with Ngakoue,” Coach Jon Gruden said during mini-camp. “Getting Yannick in here, a guy we think can be a great pass rusher, we drafted a kid named Malcolm Koonce, and we tell him, ‘Just watch Ngakoue, watch what he does. You’ll learn something.’”
If there is one player who will be the alpha for this defensive line, his name is Yannick Ngakoue.
The Raiders signed Ngakoue to a two year, $26 million contract. They want him to be the leader of this defensive line that has struggled with getting after the quarterback. Over the past two years, the Raiders ranked in the bottom ten in total sacks both years. In 2020, they ranked 29th and in 2019 they ranked 25th. Ngakoue has had at least 8 sacks in each of his past five seasons.
The 2021 season has started well for Ngakoue, unlike his last two seasons. “I haven’t been to camp in like two years. Having to hold out, trying to get a deal done in Jacksonville. It’s a blessing to be able to have the camp legs again, camp soreness, and not sitting on the couch waiting on when I’ll get a phone call,” Yannick Ngakoue said at camp.
A big part of an NFL player having success starts early on. The way you train in the offseason to the way you interact with your teammates both play a big role in your individual success. Ngakoue hasn’t been able to do that in two years. If 2021 continues the way it started for Ngakoue, expect a big season from the former pro bowler.
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