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What Does Yannick Ngakoue Bring to the Chicago Bears?

Our resident scout, Greg Gabriel, takes a deeper look at Chicago’s new pass rusher and what he means for the defensive line as a whole.

Indianapolis Colts v Dallas Cowboys Photo by Cooper Neill/Getty Images

In a long-anticipated move, the Chicago Bears signed eight-year pass rusher Yannick Ngakoue to a 1-year contract worth $10.5M last night. Back in June, during OTAs, both Bears GM Ryan Poles and Head Coach Matt Eberflus had mentioned the need to add one more pass rusher to this Bears' defense. Ngakoue was the best pass rusher on the market, not just now but going back at least two months.

It did surprise me that Yannick got $10.5M with $10M of that guaranteed. Based on other signings around the League, I felt that his market would be in the eight to nine million range. That said, Ngakoue has the skins on the wall that few have. Two weeks ago, when he appeared in GMFB on the NFL Network, it was mentioned that Yannick is one of only five players in the history of the League to record at least 8.0 sacks in each of his first seven years in the League. The other four are either in the Hall of Fame or will be. Those four are Reggie White, Demarcus Ware, Derrick Thomas and Aaron Donald. All but Donald are in the Hall, and Donald will be five years after he retires. That puts Ngakoue in a rare group.

So what does Ngakoue bring to the Bears? First, he is a damn good pass rusher. I wouldn't call him dominant, but he is very consistent. He's never had less than 8.0 sacks in a season, but he's also never had more than 12. He has had double-digit sacks twice in his seven-year career. What I like about his game is his quickness off the ball and his hand use. He has quick, explosive hands and does a great job preventing his opponent from getting two hands on him.

Next, he brings a veteran presence to the DLine room. People he's worked with have told me he is a "Pro," meaning he works hard at his craft, goes about his business and is a leader by example. His presence and knowledge will help young pass rushers like Dominique Robinson grow into the players the Bears' front office feels they can become.

It's a given that Matt Eberflus and Defensive Coordinator Alan Williams want to use a seven or eight-man rotation every game along the defensive line. The signing of Ngakoue will really help how that rotation is used.

Since coming into the League in 2016, there has only been one season in which Ngakoue hasn't played at least 68% of the defensive snaps. The most he has played is 80%, which was back in 2019 when he was with Jacksonville.

At least to start the season, Ngakoue may not be the starter, but you can bet that he will be in the game on a majority of passing downs. 'Flus wants to be in his sub-package at least 75% of the time, so the playtime to rush the passer will be there.

This year, the Bears wanted to upgrade their run defense, which was why they signed DeMarcus Walker, Andrew Billings and Rasheem Green. All three are strong run defenders. Walker had his best season as a pass rusher last year when he recorded 7.5 sacks, but when you look at where he was playing when he got those sacks, it was inside. Therefore, I can see Walker playing as a DT on many passing downs this year with Ngakoue outside. I feel that Billings and Green won't be playing that often on obvious passing downs.

The question is, who will be the primary pass rusher opposite Ngakoue? The Bears hope that will be second-year man Dominique Robinson. Robinson is a freak athlete with dominant pass rush traits; what he lacks is experience and know-how. With this being his second year in the League, he should take a big jump. Last year Robinson only had 2.0 sacks, and he needs to get to the 7.0 sacks area this year. To help his development, Robinson spent part of the off-season working with former great pass rusher Robert Mathis to improve his technique. If Robinson can't show improvement, the Bears can always keep Walker outside, as he came to camp lighter than at any other time in his career. His movement skills are the best they have ever been since he has been a pro.

Trevis Gipson had 7.0 sacks two years ago but regressed last season. While it is hoped that he will revert to his second-year form, it certainly isn't a given that will happen. The pre-season is very important for Gipson, as it is with free agent Terrell Lewis. Lewis has looked very good running around without pads, and now he has to do it with pads on, which he has not done in his previous three years in the League. He has the natural traits, and now he needs to produce.

Who will the other tackle be if Walker moves inside on pass downs? While the trio of Justin Jones, Gervon Dexter and Zaach Pickens will all get snaps, the one who proves to be the best pass rusher will get the majority of the reps on pass downs. My gut feeling is it will be one of the rookies, but that still has to play out.

It's my opinion that the signing of Ngakoue is huge. It gives the Bears an experienced and productive pass rusher who is still in his prime and gives the team the depth and rotation flexibility they were looking for.