The Las Vegas Raiders Yannick Ngakoue is keen on having a career that, when over, will not point to someone who was simply a good rusher in the NFL.
Ngakoue is having a pretty hot season, having recorded his eighth sack of the season last Sunday. His sacking of Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott leaves him boasting six straight seasons in which he has made at least eight sacks. This term is more impressive as the conditions aren’t exactly conducive – those six years have seen him play on four different teams.
His achievements so far beckon NFL Hall of Famer Kevin Greene to mind. Ngakoue wears the No. 91 and has been since the Jacksonville Jaguars drafted him in 2016, the same Greene used to wear. He’s quite aware of the similarities between their careers so far, mostly being able to step up to the task no matter which team they’re on.
He’s also put a photo of Greene as his profile picture on Twitter.
“Kevin Greene, everywhere he went he produced at a high level,” the defensive end said via the Raiders’ official website. “And I feel like we have similar stories. As far as I did my first four seasons in Jacksonville and had to make that little journey to get to ultimately here. And I feel like Minnesota, Baltimore – no matter how I was used, even if I wasn’t utilized the right way, I still managed to find a way to make plays. And that’s important.
“The reason why I put Kevin Greene up there is that he went through a similar journey and he produced at a high level everywhere he went.”
Raiders defensive coordinator Gus Bradley agrees that there are similarities, having witnessed Ngakoue’s improvement as a player.
“I know there are some aspects of their games that are very similar. Kevin Greene was a phenomenal player,” Bradley noted. “But I think what makes Yannick so unique is his motor and his desire to be a really, really good player. He’s really driven to that, but I think where his game has also changed now is the run game. … You’re seeing him be a complete player on first, second and third down. A guy that can go out there and you’re not worried about [him]. And he’s given so much to this team.”
The 26-year-old reckons his success is down to the training he does in the offseason, as well as his work ethic. Ngakoue wants to outwork everyone in the league and thinks he’s put some separation between himself and everyone else because of the taxing workout routine he puts himself through.
He credits his lower-body lifting and sled dragging for his strong lower half. It’s also helped with his bursting off of the line of scrimmage.
The Raiders are playing in a tough AFC West and are third therein with a 6-5 record. The 7-4 Kansas City Chiefs lead the division while the Los Angeles Chargers and Denver Broncos are also 6-5 so it’s going to be a fight.
The bookmakers do not favor them to top the division and have attached them to 9/1 odds on that front. The Chiefs are the obvious faves at 1/2 while the Chargers are 18/5. The Broncos are 9/2 and a BetMGM bonus code should come in pretty handy for fans who are looking to make bets on NFL futures between now and the end of the season.
Ngakoue is eyeing a career-high in sacks this season with six games left to go. The Washington D.C native doesn’t believe he’s close to his prime right now and is out to prove he could be the complete defensive player.
He would like to be in the conversation as one of the greatest by the time he hangs up the boots.
“I’m just not trying to be a guy who was a good rusher in the NFL,” he said. “When I’m done, I want people to always put me on that Mount Rushmore, arguably. And that’s a long way to go, so I’m just going to keep working. Keep chopping wood.”
“I’m not at my best. I feel that I’m just scratching the surface.”
Meanwhile, the NFL has won an antitrust appeal made by the city of Oakland, California, in relation to the Raiders opting to move to Las Vegas in 2017. The 9th U.S Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco rejected the city’s claims via a 3-0 vote after it was alleged that the NFL’s refusal to expand beyond 32 teams and it is charging the team a relocation fee of $378 million that hindered competition.
Judge A. Wallace Tashima said he found too many “speculative links” between the league’s actions and Oakland’s complaints.
“Although the city has alleged antitrust injury, it has not alleged with sufficient certainty that … the Raiders would have stayed in Oakland, and under what terms, in a hypothetical competitive market,” Tashima wrote.