The Ravens hope the addition of Yannick Ngakoue can take them to an even more formidable level.
The talented defensive end adds another element to the pass rush, which has managed 13 sacks over the past two games.
Ngakoue will get a huge first test this week against the Steelers — a team he idolized as a kid even though he grew up in Bowie, Md., and played at the University of Maryland.
Obviously, he quickly switched allegiances.
“The Ravens are a team that I definitely used to watch a lot growing up,” Ngakoue said. “I was a Steelers fan growing up, which is quite ironic, but those guys had crazy battles as I remember being a kid watching them on TV. It was really low-scoring games, like 10-3 games. It was just a defensive battle.”
In six games with Minnesota this season, Ngakoue has recorded 10 tackles, a team-high five sacks and two forced fumbles. He will get a chance to rekindle his partnership with fellow defensive end Calais Campbell, who was his teammate in Jacksonville.
The duo of Ngakoue and Campbell could be fearsome, especially with outside linebacker Matthew Judon bringing even more pressure off the edge.
Ngakoue has recorded four-consecutive seasons with at least eight sacks. That trails only Aaron Donald (six), Von Miller (six), Chandler Jones (five) and Khalil Mack (five) for the longest such active streak in the NFL.
“It feels great to have a person who you have a familiarity with rushing and chemistry,” Ngakoue said about his reunion within Campbell. “He’s a three-technique who knows how I love to rush; I like to take chances and things like that. So, we had a lot of success in Jacksonville, and we’re just hoping to do the same things here.”
The Ravens were also looking at a bigger picture with Ngakoue.
He helps the Ravens match up better with the high-powered offenses in the league, such as the Chiefs. Defensive coordinator Don Martindale will able to put together a game plan that pressure Kansas City quarterback Patrick Mahomes with four pass-rushers up front without exposing the secondary. Mahomes is 3-0 against the Ravens in the past three seasons.
For now, the focus is solely on the Week 7 showdown with Pittsburgh, which has a fearsome pass rush of its own and leads the league with 26 sacks. The Steelers are the only undefeated team in the NFL after a hard-fought 27-24 victory over the previously unbeaten Titans.
Ngakoue is confident the pendulum can swing in the Ravens favor with him in the mix.
“I already knew this was definitely a top defense,” Ngakoue said. “I’ve been part of a top defense before in 2017, and I know what it takes to uphold that standard. Just going to the second question you asked, I’m definitely excited about the Steelers game. I had a lot of success, personally, versus that team.
“And I’m pretty sure as a team, the whole defense will have a lot of success, not this weekend, but the next weekend coming up. I’m definitely, definitely super excited to be able to play my first game – my first Ravens and Steelers game.”