The Bears finally got their marquee pass rusher when they signed Yannick Ngakoue to a one-year, $10.5 million deal earlier this week. But as much as Bears fans are excited to have a bonafide defensive end to pressure the QB, some concerns have been raised about Ngakoue’s game in other areas.
The word on Ngakoue is that although he’s an incredibly talented pass rusher, his run defense leaves something to be desired. If you’re into this sort of thing, from 2020-2022, PFF has graded Ngakoue’s pass rush between 56.9 and 76.2. He topped out at a 90.5 grade in 2017. From 2019-2022, PFF graded Ngakoue’s run defense between 28.2 and 45.8. The 28.2 was his worst grade, and it came in 2021.
Ngakoue has consistently played between 70% - 80% of a defense's snaps, but with a rep like that against the run, some have questioned whether he might be better suited as a situational player, when offenses are backed up in obvious passing downs. The Bears don’t buy that and Matt Eberflus said Ngakoue will continue to be a three-down defensive end in Chicago. Further, Bears coaches believe the criticism of Ngakoue’s run defense is overblown.
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“He’ll be just fine,” said defensive coordinator Alan Williams. “He can choke a guy out. Believe me about that. He can choke a guy out.
“We are going to stop the run and we are going to earn the right to rush the passer. He’ll be part of that too. The mentality is we stop the run. He’ll be just fine. I’ve watched the tape, and he’ll choke a guy out too.”
The Bears will need Ngakoue to play well against the run, considering it was one of their biggest deficiencies last season. In 2022, the Bears surrendered the most rushing touchdowns in the NFL (31), the most rushing first downs (151), the second-most rushing yards (2,674) and tied for the sixth-worst yards per carry average (4.9).
It’s not surprising that after seeing those numbers, some are focused on how Ngakoue can help or hurt in that area. But Ngakoue has a message for those who still doubt his run-stopping prowess.
“They’ll see this year.”