Yannick Ngakoue is and feels right at home with the Ravens

The Baltimore Ravens rocked the NFL work on Thursday with a pair of roster moves to acquire a pair of former Pro Bowl players, one on each side of the ball.

Signing three-time Pro Bowl veteran wide receiver Dez Bryant to the practice squad could develop into a fruitful connection in an inconsistent Ravens passing attack if he’s called up.

However, the trade for Pro Bowl pass-rusher Yannick Ngakoue from the Minnesota Vikings was the more notable addition of the two and will pay immediate dividends and shift the balance of power in the AFC conference going forward.

The 28-year old will be heading back to his home state where he grew up in Bowie, Md. and played collegiately at the University of Maryland for Terps where he starred from 2013-2015 before entering the league as a third-round selection of the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2016.

Ngakoue isn’t just returning to the state he called home to continue his professional football career, he’s also coming to a team where he will once again be teammates and play alongside literally the biggest influence in his life on and off the field.

The very first question he was asked in his introductory press conference on Friday was about how it feels to be reunited with veteran defensive end Calais Campbell.

The two Pro Bowl pass rushers were teammates and enjoyed tremendous success play together in Jacksonville from 2017-2019.

“It feels great to have a person that you have familiarity with, rushing and chemistry,” Ngakoue said. “He’s a three-technique who knows how I love to rush. I like to take chances and things like that. We had a lot of success in Jacksonville. We’re just hoping to do the same things here.”

Campbell was ecstatic when he was informed that his former mentee and pass-rushing partner would be joining him in Charm City. He can’t wait for Ravens and their fan base to get acquainted with the man as well as the player.

“I’m stoked. He’s such a great talent, just a great guy,” Campbell said Thursday. “I think he’s going to thrive in this culture that we have here. I can’t wait.”

“I know he wants to win. He loves the game of football,” Campbell said. “This is a place where he’s going to flourish. This culture is going to bring the best out of him and his game. He’s just scratching the surface of how good he can be.”

In addition to teaming up with Campbell and the rest of the talent in the Ravens’ defensive front seven, Ngakoue will be joining a defense that boasts one of if not the best secondary in the league.

He knows the relationship between the pass rush and the coverage unit is a harmonious one and is excited to have the likes of First-Team All-Pro cornerbacks Marcus Peters and Marlon Humphrey as well as the ascending safety tandem of the intellectual Chuck Clark and the instinctual DeShon Elliott in the backend providing him with more time to get to opposing quarterbacks.

“Rushing and cover goes together,” Ngakoue said. “When you rush the quarterback well, corners and safeties get interceptions. When your corners and safeties cover well, you have more time as a defensive lineman to get to the quarterback. It all goes hand in hand. All those guys are tremendous as far as coverage skills, tackling skills. It will definitely help the defense out, not even just myself, as soon as I arrive.”

Ngakoue recorded five sacks, seven quarterback hits, and two forced fumbles in six games with the Vikings and is hoping he can play a significant role in the Ravens top-ranked defense that he played on the Sacksonville defense with Jaguars in his second year in the league.

“I’m just a guy who wants to make a huge impact,” Ngakoue said. “I’ve been part of a top defense in 2017 and I know what it takes to uphold that standard. Coming to another team that has a lot of success going on is a blessing.”

He possesses another attribute that the Ravens look for and covet within their players and that’s the versatility to affect the passing game as both an edge rusher and in coverage. However, he is best utilized rushing the passer in a two-point stance or with his hand in the dirt.

“He has the ability to drop and cover tight ends and I’ve seen him do it at a high level,” said Campbell. “But his best is going forward. He can bend that edge probably better than anybody in the league. It gives us another option when you have to try to block us. You don’t know which way we’re going to send the blitz, which way we’re coming from. We’re going to be a tough team to beat with him on the field.”

There have already been speculation and rumors that the Ravens and Ngakoue have already engaged in contract talks to work on an extension to keep him Baltimore for the foreseeable future. While he’d love to be with the Ravens for the long haul, he’s not worried about getting a new contract right now.

“Things like that I leave up to God,” Ngakoue said. “If it’s meant for me to be here a long time then that’s what it is, and I’ll be more than excited to be back home. This is where it all started for me with my dream.”

The Ravens wouldn’t part with coveted draft capital in the form of a 2021 third-rounder and a conditional 2022 fifth-rounder for a 10-14 game rental so I do believe they intend to lock him up at some point.

However, I don’t see it happening anytime in the near future with other potential moves that could be made before the trade deadline and then there is also the looming contract extension of stalwart left tackle Ronnie Stanley that still needs to be addressed.

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