“Everyone worries about these numbers, and you can justify these numbers,” Wash said of Ngakoue’s measurements. “To me, it’s about the game speed, and he plays at a very fast pace.”
In practice, Jones said, Ngakoue stalks around talking to himself. He admonishes. He encourages. He vows to improve. In drills, he goes first, always first.
After analyzing film at home, Ngakoue might unwind by queuing up YouTube clips of his mayhem-causing forebears — Simeon Rice, Michael Strahan, Taylor, Thomas — or old episodes of the NFL Network documentary series “A Football Life.” Last week, he watched the episode on Thomas for a second time. He thought about going home that night and watching it again.
“I watch and internalize,” he said.
Ngakoue saves his notebooks for observations of players he soon expects to torment. He notices whether a quarterback taps the ball while going through his progressions, if he keeps his other hand on it or if he holds it loosely, like a soda can. Ngakoue charts the depth of their drop backs — if they stop at 8 yards but step up 2 yards to throw, for instance — and melds that data with information provided by his coaches, like a quarterback’s average release time and his completion percentages within that time frame.
Heading into Jacksonville’s first two games, victories against the Giants and the Patriots, Ngakoue knew that Eli Manning and Brady tended to throw within 2.5 seconds, which meant, on average, he had less time than that to reach them. He did not sack them, but he registered a combined six hurries, according to Pro Football Focus. He also pressured Manning into throwing an interception that was returned for a touchdown.
Ngakoue dissects offensive tackles with equal rigor, noting their weaknesses, then cross-referencing his observations by watching updated film.
The former Seattle defensive end Cliff Avril was the active leader in forced fumbles last year before a neck injury prompted him to retire. Avril’s chief asset was his short-area quickness, his explosive first step, and he said in an interview last year that he would try blowing past the tackle early to make his opponent respect his speed for the rest of the game.