JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Sunday's season finale vs. the Indianapolis Colts could be Yannick Ngakoue's final game as a Jacksonville Jaguar, but that didn't stop head coach Doug Marrone from piling compliments onto the fourth-year player on Friday.
“He has been great," Marrone said Friday at TIAA Bank Field. "When you talk about a laser-like focus where … He is only one speed. He is 100 miles per hour working to get better every day.
If anything, you have to kind of pull him back a little bit. That is what you want as a coach. You want to be like, ‘Hey, just pull it back a little bit.’ He just goes. Always a smile on his face, he really loves football."
Ngakoue, a fourth-year defensive end who Jacksonville selected in the third round of the 2016 NFL Draft, has had another solid campaign and has once again shown the Jaguars' staff how much he means to the team. He has eight sacks and three forced fumbles this season and has become more of a factor as a run defender than ever before in his career.
The veteran pass-rusher has also been one of the leaders of the locker room during a turbulent season, which has seen star players traded, quarterbacks benched, and executives fired. For that, Marrone has the utmost respect.
But the elephant in the room is obviously still present. Ngakoue's contract, which expires following this season, has been one of the main talking points of this entire season. Despite that, Marrone says Ngakoue has never let it affect how he carries himself.
"We all know the contract issue that is out there, but for my appreciation as a coach and the assistant coaches would say, that is never ever talked about nor are there ever any actions that show any frustration," Marrone said. "As a coach, you can’t ask for more than that. He’s a heck of a player."
Marrone would continue to heap praise on his star defensive end, noting how other team's coaches frequently bring up Ngakoue when speaking with Marrone. Jacksonville knows what they have in Ngakoue, but so do all 31 other teams.
"You know how you always wonder, ‘What the hell are those coaches talking about when they are out there on the field pregame?’ Well, a lot of times those guys will be [saying], ‘Hey, that 91, that guy can go. He’s got a motor,'" Marrone said. "So, he’s got a lot of respect, not only in this building but around the league."
Sunday could be Ngakoue's swan song in Jacksonville, but his teammates and coaches have done nothing but talk about what he means to the organization.