JACKSONVILLE – The 2018 NFL season officially ended Sunday.
As Yannick Ngakoue sees it, the ’19 season can’t arrive soon enough – because the Jaguars’ pass-rushing defensive end has more than a bit to prove.
“The years I’ve had before, this year is going to make those years nothing,” Ngakoue told jaguars.com from Radio Row last week before Super Bowl LIII.
While Ngakoue’s words weren’t the major Jaguars news from Super Bowl week – Hall of Fame voters passing yet again on Jaguars great Tony Boselli was the easy winner in that category – Ngakoue’s words were significant as the Jaguars move into 2019.
Ngakoue is motivated, both from an individual perspective and a team one.
He showed as much in the immediate aftermath of the Jaguars’ 5-11 2018 season, talking about wanting to be a team captain next season and the team needing more resiliency.
He reiterated that stance Friday, saying he already has begun working out and preparing for next season – the idea being to set a tone for teammates. And he has vowed not to leave TIAA Bank Field this offseason without the captain’s “C” on his chest – and to make 2019 his best season to date.
“I’m telling you: I was in a way embarrassed from this season … because I hold myself to a high standard – a really high standard,” Ngakoue said of a season in which he registered 9.5 sacks and a team-high 33 pressures.
That’s not a bad season. It’s in fact one of the better pass-rushing seasons in franchise history.
But Ngakoue said he believes it should have been better.
“It didn’t bother me for myself,” Ngakoue said. “It bothered me because I know any time I do get a sack I can see the guys around me on the field, their faces light up. It makes them want to go even harder. I love it.
“I love when I get a sack and I see [linebackers] Telvin [Smith] or Myles [Jack] or [cornerback] Jalen [Ramsey] going, ‘Yeah …’ and then you the next play they get a pick or Myles gets a big hit. It’s contagious. I love it when guys make big plays.”
Ngakoue closed Friday’s interview characteristically, saying he believed himself the most underappreciated player.
“You guys don’t talk about me enough, but after the season you guys will definitely want to talk about me,” he said. “It’s fact.”
Ngakoue long has been driven by being overlooked. What has been different this offseason is his public statements to want to be a team leader – and a captain. As Ngakoue noted immediately following the season, he hasn’t always behaved as the ideal leader; he said he knows must reduce his penalties to do so.
Still, the thought here remains Ngakoue is a young player indeed transitioning into being a veteran, and his desire to set a tone in the offseason – and to wear the captain’s “C” – can’t be anything but a positive.
FINAL THOUGHT ON BO
Tony Boselli for a third consecutive year was not elected to the Hall of Fame after entering Super Bowl weekend as one of 15 “modern-era” finalists – and while his omission from the 2019 class angered many Jaguars fans, the chances remain good Boselli will eventually be elected. A few factors bode well for Boselli moving forward. One is he has been among the Top 10 in all three of his finalist years; Boselli, safety Steve Atwater, guard Steve Hutchinson, running back Edgerrin James and guard Alan Faneca were the candidates in the top 10 this year not among the five elected. Another is that the much-discussed four-player logjam of offensive linemen that had hurt the chances of all four players got broken this year with the election of center Kevin Mawae; the feeling among Hall voters is that once one lineman was elected, the other four would follow in ensuing years. A third factor boding well for Boselli is that safety Troy Polamalu appears to be the most likely first-year enshrinee for the 2020 class – and Polamalu doesn’t seem a first-year guarantee on the level of tight end Tony Gonzalez, safety Ed Reed and cornerback Champ Bailey this year. It would be a major surprise if at least one – and perhaps two – players from the Boselli/Hutchinson/Faneca trio didn’t make it in 2020. The feeling among many voters this week remained that Boselli eventually will be elected, and 2020 appears as likely a year as any.