On to ’19: Ngakoue ready to be captain

Jacksonville Jaguars defensive end Yannick Ngakoue (91) provides a pep talk to his teammates before kick-off against the Houston Texans during an NFL game Sunday, December 30, 2018 in Houston. (Rick Wilson via AP)
Jacksonville Jaguars defensive end Yannick Ngakoue (91) provides a pep talk to his teammates before kick-off against the Houston Texans during an NFL game Sunday, December 30, 2018 in Houston. (Rick Wilson via AP)

ATLANTA, Ga. – Like many teammates, Yannick Ngakoue is looking ahead.

“I’ve definitely washed my hands of the season,” he said.

The Jaguars’ pass-rushing defensive end joined jaguars.com at Super Bowl LIII Friday afternoon, talking not only about wanting to put the disappointment of a 5-11 2018 season behind him but also of looking forward to 2019.

He reiterated this, too:

He very much feels like a team leader, and very much plans to be a team captain next season to provide that leadership.

“I want that responsibility,” he said. “I really should have had a ‘C’ on my chest this season. You can ask a lot of guys, but it didn’t work out that way. This year, I’m not leaving out of that building without a ‘C’ on my chest. 

“That’s the responsibility I want. I know that I was born to be in this position, so why not go all the way with it and try to bring guys up with you?”

Ngakoue said holding teammates to a standard is “easy.”

“Practice,” he said. “Practice is where you can see if a guy is putting it all in or if he’s not. I’ll call guys out in practice. It’s all about practice. It’s what helps you win on Sundays, basically.”

Ngakoue also on Friday discussed former teammate Dante Fowler Jr., who was traded at midseason to the Los Angeles Rams. He said he is pulling for the Rams Sunday, and that he has been impressed with Fowler’s improvement since joining the Rams.

“I feel like he has gotten way better in his rushes,” Ngakoue said. “I feel like he has more quarterback awareness when he rushes. He knows when he’s getting to the depth. He knows when to fall back or when he can still take the edge. That’s really amazing to me, seeing him able to grow like that.

“They keep talking about the [Rams’] interior guys, and I’m happy they’re talking about the interior guys, so they can sleep on Dante and Dante can win across the edge and make plays. I want Dante to be successful. I want him to get a ring. That’s a guy I played with for three seasons – that I shed blood, sweat and tears with – so I definitely want to see him get a ring.”

Ngakoue said his preparation for next season has begun, that he started working out shortly after the season. Ngakoue, who has had 29.5 sacks in three NFL seasons, said he has yet to come close to reaching his potential and said a key for the Jaguars next season is being more resilient.

“The key is to not fold at all, no matter what the situation is,” he said. “Going into the half, zero to 14, we have to know we’re still going to win that ballgame. There has to be a mentality that we can always get ourselves out of a situation.

“We have to start fast. We have to throw the first punch. We cannot wait a moment to do it. We have to start as soon as the whistle blows, first quarter. That’s what I’m going to harp on guys in the offseason. I want to see where guys’ minds are really at. I hope we really turn it up this offseason.”

And Ngakoue said while the 2018 season undoubtedly was disappointing, he also said it should serve as a learning experience.

“It’s done, but I’m thankful for going through that season,” Ngakoue said. “There are a lot of things you can pick up and learn from that season. I took a lot of that with me, so I’m just focused and training getting ready for 2019 to win some football games in Jacksonville.”

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