At least that’s what Sports Illustrated’s Zach Hicks argued on September 22. He offered 5 lineup change suggestions, including playing 1 of the team’s former Pro Bowl players — edge rusher Yannick Ngakoue — fewer snaps.
Ngakoue played 106 plays, which was 75% of the team’s defensive snaps, in the first 2 games. He has posted 4 combined tackles, including 1 tackle for loss, 1 quarterback hit and zero sacks.
Ngakoue a Liability in Run Defense
Although Ngakoue hasn’t been stellar at rushing the passer early this season, the biggest reason why Hicks argued Ngakoue should play fewer snaps is because of his poor run defense.
Ngakoue has recorded a run defense grade of 29.5 (out of 100) at Pro Football Focus to begin this season. That run defense grade ranks dead last for the Colts, and second lowest among all edge rushers in the NFL.
For how poorly Ngakoue is defending the run, he’s probably playing far too many snaps in more obvious running situations.
“While run defense has never been Ngakoue’s calling card, the concern is the amount of snaps he is seeing against the run/in base defense,” Hicks wrote. “His 45 snaps in run defense are actually the 10th most among edge rushers this year.”
Colts defensive linemen Dayo Odeyingbo and Tyquan Lewis aren’t necessarily dominating in run defense. But they are playing better than Ngakoue, and Hicks would like to see them play more snaps on early downs.
Keeping Ngakoue Fresh for Passing Downs
The Colts traded for Ngakoue to rush the passer. While he hasn’t done that this season yet either, there might be a correlation between his high number of snaps in run defense and his lack of pass rushing stats.
If Ngakoue is playing a lot of snaps in run defense, he won’t have as much energy when the Colts really need him. That’s on third downs when the opposing quarterback is passing.
“One way to keep Ngakoue fresh for passing downs (while also improving the edge run defense) is to start either Dayo Odeyingbo or Tyquan Lewis at end in base sets,” Hicks wrote. “Moving Ngakoue to more of a sub-pass rusher could pay dividends for the team this season.”
Last season, Ngakoue earned a 28.6 run defense grade from PFF. So actually, he’s pretty much right where one would expect him to be in that department through 2 weeks this season.
But the difference is he only played 300 snaps in run defense including the playoffs last season. Ngakoue is currently on pace for 405 snaps against the run in 2022 (assuming he plays the same number of games as 2021).
Ngakoue on Injury Report Ahead of Week 3
The hope this week, though, is that Indianapolis will have Ngakoue in any capacity for Week 3. Ngakoue was limited in practice on September 21 and then didn’t practice at all on September 22 because of a back issue.
While Ngakoue has yet to get going this season, the Colts would miss him badly against Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs.